Friday, November 11, 2011

Black Mis-leadership & Racist Drug Laws

This article originally appeared in the Howard University newspaper, The Hilltop.

Many of us have come to the conclusion that the criminal justice system does not operate in the best interest of Black people, but fewer people realize the role that Black leadership has played in the perpetuation of the injustice.

For example, in the 1980s the Republican and Democratic Parties were in a race to prove how "tough on crime" they could be. Under the leadership of Tip O'Neal, the Democrats helped to push the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 that established a 100:1 ratio for sentences related to crack cocaine as opposed to those related to powder cocaine.

Never mind the fact that there is virtually no chemical difference between powder and crack cocaine, this law meant that people caught in possession of crack cocaine served much harsher mandatory minimum sentences than those found with the powder version. This anti-Black, uh, I mean, anti-crime hysteria reached such a fever pitch that Mickey Leland, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Harlem congressman Charles Rangel co-sponsored the legislation.

Oh it doesn't end there. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 extended a person's sentence even after release from prison by eliminating student loans for anyone with a drug conviction. So, not only were Blacks more likely to be arrested, they were also less likely to be granted an opportunity to attempt to improve the quality of their lives afterwards.

According to legal scholar Michelle Alexander, only six CBC members voted against it. A few years later in 1994, Kweisi Mfume, chair of the CBC, voted for legislation that codified the "three strikes" laws--which disproportionately affects Blacks convicted of non-violent crimes--at the federal level. Confused?

It's simple: Many of our Black elected officials actually contributed to the modern day re-enslavement of our people in the prison system.

I went to the CBC weekend one time. That's it. Once was enough. After looking at a proud display that showed their sponsors included the largest transnational corporations in the US, I decided I'd never come back.

It's time for a new Black leadership that is independent, visionary, and militant to step forward from this generation, one that doesn't simply maintain the status quo, and one that is not afraid to openly advocate for the interests of their people without regard for political judgment or consequences. The white left has the occupy movement. Where is our movement?

The new Black leadership should organize for 1) an equal 1:1 sentencing ratio for crack and powder cocaine offenses and an end to "three strikes" laws at the federal and state level, 2) the decriminalization of marijuana and consequently an end to stop-and-frisk policies that target Blacks, 3) reparations for newly released people for time spent in prison because of harsh racist drug laws and 4) the Black community and world to question the very existence of prisons in human society.

Next generation to the front of the line!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Free Marshall "Eddie' Conway

This article originally appeared in Howard University Student paper, The Hilltop.

The case of Marshall "Eddie" Conway is one of the longest-running political prisoner cases in the United States of America and on Nov. 1, Mr. Conway is set for a parole board hearing.

Conway and his supporters have consistently asserted that he has been imprisoned since 1970 because he was an effective organizer in the Baltimore Black Panther Party. He, along with two other suspects, Jack Johnson and Jack Powell, were convicted of the murder of a white police officer and of the attempted murder of another officer, after the officers responded to a domestic violence call.

Although there is a signed confession, a jailhouse informant, and police identification, there is no physical evidence that connects Conway to the murder. (Sound familiar?) Although Jack Johnson confessed to the crime before the trial began, he stated that he was tortured and forced to sign the confession.

So, contrary to the mainstream media's attention and coverage of the issue, forced confessions did not start with Amanda Knox. In the same way, torture of Black Panthers is not without precedent. (For more on this, check out the "Legacy of Torture" documentary.)

A jailhouse informant, who Conway protested having to be placed in a cell with, claims that Conway confessed to him that he committed the murder. After looking at two decks of pictures, in which Conway's picture was conveniently the only one to appear in both decks, another officer identified Conway as the killer. Surprise, surprise.

With all of this circumstantial evidence, how could Conway have been kept in prison for almost 41 years? It's simple. He was a victim of the FBI's Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO).

One of the stated goals of COINTELPRO was to "disrupt, discredit, and otherwise neutralize Black Nationalist hate-type organizations." Neutralization meant illegal surveillance, infiltration, imprisonment, forced exile, and even assassinations.

For example, on Dec. 4, 1969, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were murdered in a hail of bullets by the Chicago Police Department. William O'Neal, Hampton's bodyguard and government infiltrator, supplied the CPD with a layout of the victims' apartments and drugged Hampton to ensure that he wouldn't fight back.

Another victim of COINTELPRO, the late Geronimo ji-Jaga Pratt, spent 27 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. He was convicted of the murder of a white tennis instructor in Los Angeles, and the key witness was an FBI informant.

Eventually, Pratt was able get a hold of the memos showing that the key witness lied about his relationship with the FBI, but only after Pratt was falsely imprisoned almost three decades.

While the United States supposedly champions the right to political freedom for others abroad, Conway and dozens of other political prisoners are still incarcerated at home for their political beliefs and/or actions.

Conway's supporters are asking everyone to call and write letters to the Maryland Parole Commission to demand his freedom. This is the chance for those of us on Howard's campus to support a man who struggled for us long before we were even born and to pay him back for over 41 years of hard work in the Black Liberation Movement.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Support the Pelican Bay Prisoners’ Hunger Strike

This article originally appeared in the Howard University Newspaper, the Hilltop

On Sept. 26, prisoners in California reinitiated a hunger strike to protest their inhumane conditions at Pelican Bay State Prison. The prisoners are located in isolation, or, the technical term, Segregated Housing Units (SHU) or Administrative Segregation. SHU is confinement to a cell approximately 10 feet by 6 feet with no windows, little to no human contact for 23 hours a day. But get this; some of them have been in SHU for five, 10, and 20 plus years! They have five core demands:

1. Eliminate group punishments.

2. Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria.

3. Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long term solitary confinement.

4. Provide adequate food.

5. Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates.

In other words, they are asking the California Department of Corrections to observe their basic human rights. (I mean "provide adequate food," really?)The last strike, in July of this year, lasted a little of more than three weeks after California officials stated they would comply with the demands. But, according to Mutope Duguma (James Crawford) who issued the call, little has been done to follow through on the prisoners' concerns.

Amnesty International has repeatedly called the treatment of prisoners in the US torture. That isn't surprising. Remember those photos from Abu Ghraib? Well, several of the troops who conducted the torture techniques there were correctional officers in US prisons. In short, they'd been practicing on black folk in prison for years.

In 1971, the prisoners who took part in the uprising at Attica in New York were reacting to the racist mistreatment by guards, overcrowding, and lack of adequate medical care. In response to the uprising, Governor Rockefeller ordered state troopers to retake the prison, leaving ten hostages and twenty-nine inmates dead. By portraying the multiracial uprising as, in the words of Richard Nixon, "basically a Black thing", the State was able to justify the massacre.

Just last year, Police Commander Jon Burge was convicted of lying about torturing over one hundred Black men in Chicago jails. Some of his victims spent years in prison for confessing to a crime they didn't commit.

The resistance to these conditions is growing. Over $12,000 prisoners throughout California, and in parts of Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Arizona, have [been] at some point rejected food in support of the strike. Last year, in Georgia, prisoners in six prisons went on strike to receive compensation for jailhouse labor.

So whether it's strikers in Pelican Bay or prisoners at Red Onion in Virginia stating their fingers are being broken arbitrarily by correctional officers (no that's not a misprint, Google it), we must support them with statements from our organizations. We must tell the governor to concede to their demands. We must provide monetary support for the prisoners' organizational efforts. At the end of the day, in disproportionate numbers, these are OUR people. Let us never forget our own that are trapped in the belly of the beast.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

SAMI Statement in support of Pelican Bay Strike & Occupy Wall Street

Students Against Mass Incarceration
(SAMI-Howard University

Police State in Action from New York to California

NYPD, CDCR, Use Strong-Arm Tactics against Peoples Movement

The NYPD showed its true colors on October 1st as they faced off with protestors on the Brooklyn Bridge. The demonstration of five-thousand originated from lower Manhattan at the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) encampment, as protestors marched across the bridge to Brooklyn the police trapped, or “kettled,” the march and carried out a mass arrest of over seven-hundred. This followed a week of harassment of the OWS encampment and actions by police. As OWS has drawn from increasingly wider layers of disaffected and exploited people, its clear that NYPD tactics are aimed at stifling the movement.

On Thursday September 29th California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation threatened harsh reprisals against hunger-striking prisoners. At least six thousand California inmates are refusing meals in eight prisons across the state. Inmates are striking for the second time this year over inhumane living conditions, including some inmates being held for decades in windowless cells. The response of the prison authorities has been to threaten to throw more inmates into these dungeon-like isolation cells.

The rich and powerful have been waging a fierce struggle against the working class and oppressed communities from which they wring their massive profits. Now, at the seat of American economic power, and in its deepest, darkest dungeons the people are starting to fight back. At their essence these two struggles are about power. Whether the powers of war, racism, and profiteering will control the streets and operate a brutal far-flung complex of repressive institutions. Or whether they will be forced to yield to the power of the popular masses.

The occupation movement continues to grow, and the will of the striking prisoners remains strong. Now is the time to take action, to stimulate and swell the ranks of the struggle against the profit-over-everything, racist, sexist, brutal, and obsolete capitalist system.

Students Against Mass Incarceration remains committed to the struggle against the repressive apparatus that seeks to keep order in the face of class exploitation and racial oppression. We extend our solidarity to those in the streets and in the prisons who continue to fight against austerity and the oppressive police state.

About SAMI
SAMI was founded in February 2011 at Howard University. The mission of the organization is to raise awareness about the prison industrial complex, political prisoners, and recidivism. We feel the aforementioned are the fundamental issues of our generation and can only be addressed through radical and militant Black activism linked to previous social movements but revised for a 21st century context.

Contact: 607-339-8188 or

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Racial Roots of Campus Policing

The article originally appeared in the Howard University student newspaper the Hilltop

"Overseer, Overseer, Overseer, Overseer
Officer, Officer, Officer, Officer!
Yeah, officer from overseer
You need a little clarity?
Check the similarity!"

-KRS One, "Sound of Da Police"

On Sept. 16, the Students Against Mass Incarceration (SAMI) held a rally at the flagpole on The Yard in support of

Troy Davis, inviting community members and the media to protest the injustice of the impending execution. Not only was the media barred from campus, but HUPD stated that because the protest was not authorized by the university, the rally could not take place.

When the point was raised that fraternal organizations did not need authorization to do stepping routines on the yard, SAMI was told "that's a tradition." Well, in the militant tradition of Howard student takeovers in 1925, 1968, and 1989 SAMI preceded with the rally, consequences be damned.

Why did the campus police attempt to stop the rally? In an article entitled "The Modern Campus Police" John Sloan shows that contemporary campus police are a response to the student rebellions in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Think about it, Black students all over the country were taking over administration buildings and the anti-war movement was in full swing.

Since campus security could not put down these rebellions, the National Guard often had to be called in. At places like Jackson State, South Carolina State, and Kent State some students were even killed in campus rebellions. Therefore, the campus police did their historical and assigned role: putting down any and all potential radical student activity.

Thus, the campus police and the American police force appear to have similar origins and purposes, maintaining "order" and squashing any potential acts of rebellion. Several scholars and commentators have traced the origin of American policing to the slave patrols in the American south. Slave patrols were composed primarily of lower class whites who put down insurrections of enslaved Africans and caught those who attempted to escape enslavement.

Armed with this information, no Black person should be shocked by the over-policing in our communities or by that campus police officer who flies on his Segway to the scene of a student protest, but is mysteriously missing when you need an escort.

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense stated that the role of the police in Black communities is similar to that of an occupying army. The primary purpose of police is to protect property: Howard University, its image, reputation (oh yeah, and you, the student [intellectual property],too). Whether on campus or in the community, understanding that the purpose of the police is primarily one of social control can only serve to enlighten and enhance our inevitable interactions with them as Black youth.

This does not mean that individual Black policeman are our inherent enemies, but the police are an institution. Although individual Black policeman are our potential working class allies, unfortunately, that is not usually the case at Howard, or in the world.

As students, acknowledging and challenging the racial roots and consequences of policing—in all its forms--is an important step towards stopping the trend of criminal injustice in our communities.

Friday, September 16, 2011

We are Troy Davis

On September 21, 2011, an innocent man could die. That is the execution date that the state of Georgia has set for Troy Anthony Davis. In 1989, Davis was convicted of murdering a white police officer named Mark Allen MacPhail. An off-duty cop, MacPhail was working as a security guard outside of a Burger King, when he was shot multiple times.

Nine people originally stated that they witnessed Davis shoot Macphail but, today, seven witnesses have recanted their testimony. Several now assert they were coerced by local law enforcement. One witness who worked at the Burger King states he cannot read, but was forced to sign a written confession. In addition, there is not one shred of physical evidence--such as a gun--which connects Davis to the crime.

His case has gained international support and calls for clemency from such well-known figures as former United States President Jimmy Carter, anti-apartheid leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Georgia Congressman John Lewis, and many more. This is Troy Davis' fourth execution date. Each time the international outcry has been so great that the state of Georgia has issued a stay of execution. This time, however, the Supreme Court has refused to hear his case.

The racist nature of the criminal justice system is hardly a revelation to most black people in America. While Nelson Mandela is now arguably the most celebrated ex-political prisoner in the world, the late Black Panther Party member Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt never experienced such reputation reversal, after spending twenty-seven years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. Better yet, maybe someone should ask Sean Bell's young New York widow and fatherless daughters what justice means to them. There are so many examples of the horrors black people have experienced at the hands of the criminal justice system that criminal injustice has become the norm. How many of us, brothers especially, were raised to anticipate and handle interactions with law enforcement? Despite our best efforts, some of us still failed during those encounters. Even more of us know someone who did. Troy Davis was one of those people, and because of it, his life has been hanging in the balance for the last two decades.

As Howard students, it is up to us to stop settling for the status quo. We cannot simply be those parents who raise our children to anticipate injustice. Instead, it is time for us to be the young adults who challenge it.

An International Day of Action has been called for this Friday September 16. Mr. Davis has been saved several times before, and it is up to us to do it again. For our parents and grandparents, for Sean and Geronimo, for every brother and sister we know who has ever been a victim of criminal injustice, for ourselves, and most importantly for our brother, we must stand again and again and say, "We are Troy Davis."

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Capitalist Circle of Life

“The average Black male
Will live a third of his life in a jail cell
Cause the world is controlled by the white male”

“Police State” -Dead Prez

This blog orginally appeared in the Hilltop, Howard University student newspaper

Earlier this year, Wachovia Bank, now Wells Fargo, was fined by the U.S. government for laundering $378 billion in drug money from 2004-2007 to Mexican drug lords. This raises the question: How do other US institutions benefit from the drug trade? The answer to this question has important ramifications for Blacks in the US.

In 1998, Congressman John Conyers submitted A Tangled Web: A History of CIA Complicity in Drug International Trafficking into the Congressional record. Furthermore, according to the Dark Alliance series published in San Jose Mercury News by Gary Webb, in order to fund covert operations in Nicaragua, the CIA assisted the Contras in selling cocaine to street organizations in South Central Los Angeles in the 1980’s.

At the same time, the U.S. passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 & 1988 that established mandatory minimum sentences (MMS), statues that require judges to set a sentence no lower than a predetermined number of years, establishing automatic punishment for drug offenders. Although there is no substantive chemical difference between crack and powder cocaine, in the 1980’s, a mass hysteria developed regarding crack and violence that contributed to the passage of harsher drug laws for the possession of crack than for the possession of cocaine. Because Blacks disproportionately use crack and whites disproportionately use powder cocaine, these drug laws were a major contributor to the explosion in the number of Black people trapped in the clutches of the prison industrial complex (PIC).

As Eric Schlosser asserts, “the PIC is a set of bureaucratic, political, and economic interests that encourage increased spending on imprisonment.” This includes prison management companies such as Corrections Corporation of America and companies that pay prisoners as little as $.25/hour for their labor. Of course, this is all legal because the 13th amendment, which allegedly abolished enslavement, states “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist in the United States.” In other words, contradicting article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which outlaws slavery, enslavement is still legal in US prisons.

The passage of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced sentencing disparities for the possession of crack versus powder cocaine, is a step in the right direction, but it is still inadequate.

Once released from prison, returning citizens face numerous obstacles. They can legally face employment discrimination, be denied public housing, and lose access to student loans and voting rights. In her book, The New Jim Crow Michelle Alexander argues that returning citizens can legally be treated like a Black person in Alabama in the 1940’s.

The U.S. government helped to introduce drugs into society, passed harsh drug laws, set up a prison industry to profit, over-policed Black communities, and, to top it all off, US banks laundered the drug money. It’s a parasitic, capitalist circle of life.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

African Youth on the Move

"All Wi Doin' is Defendin' so get ready for war!"
-Linton Kwesi Johnson “All Wi Doin’ is Defendin”

Once again, African youth are on the move. From the June 23rd movement in Senegal that is challenging the authoritarian policies of President Wade to flash mobs in Philadelphia to anti-government revolts in Malawi to the rebellions of London African youth are at the center of contemporary militant resistance.

Although the UK uprisings are multi-racial in character, the rebellions were ostensibly caused by the murder of Mark Duggan, a 29 year old African father of four, by the police but, in reality, is just one more example of the militant African response to the brutal aspects of global capitalism. According to the IPCC, Mark Duggan did not fire a gun but instead, the bullet said to have been fired by Duggan was police issued.

However, the rebellions in London must be viewed as a continuation of insurrections in the Caribbean and African continent against British enslavement and colonialism. A few examples are Morant Bay (1865), Jamaica (1968), and the Kenya Land and Freedom Army (1950s). The Caribbean psychologist, Frantz Fanon states “violence is a cleansing force. It frees the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; It makes him fearless and restores his self-respect.” Due to the psychological aspects of imperialism, the colonized, in this case “Black Britain”, is made to feel the colonizer is inherently superior or ordained by God to rule, therefore, violence is a means of expressing African agency and humanity.

In The Logic of Black Urban Rebellions Dr. Daryl Harris contends “Black urban rebellion is a tactical response to contemporary forms of White domination and an act in which key core values of the African experience are sustained”. In other words, violent revolt is a legitimate form of resistance that contributes to African progress against police terrorism and economic inequality.

Due to the restructuring of global capitalism over the past forty years, the UK has experienced a marked increase in the level of inequality to the point where today it is the 2nd most unequal country in Europe. At the same as Reaganomics was advanced in the US, Thatcherism was promoted by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the UK. Thatcher believed in the neoliberal ideology of Milton Friedman. The five characteristics of neoliberalism are 1) government deregulation 2) reducing public services 3) trade liberalization 4) privatization and 5) smashing unions. These policies have had devastating consequences for Blacks who are disproportionately poor and working class and employed in the manufacturing and public sector. Of course, oppression breeds resistance and resistance breeds more repression.

According to a report written by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Black people are 15% of the prison population but only 2% of the general population. In other words, Blacks are seven times more likely to be imprisoned than the general population. Then, in 1994 Britain instituted the the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. The act allows the police to search anyone in a designated area without specific grounds for suspicion. Africans are twenty six times more likely to be searched. In addition, since 1998, over 330 people have died in police custody and not one police officer has ever been convicted. These are the conditions led to the rebellion in Brixton (1981), Broadwater Farm (1985), and now, Tottenham (2011).

It must be remembered the revolts are primarily a response not only to the recent global economic crisis and austerity measures but the past forty years of neoliberal global capitalism. Unfortunately, because a process was not put in place to train the next generation of organizers African youth particularly in the UK and US lack a radical ideology similar to the Black Panther Party (in the UK & US).

This deficiency in mentorship can be alleviated by the creation of independent Pan African institutes taught by veterans of the Black Power Movement. The role of the institute is to transmit Left Pan Africanist ideology, strategy, organizing, and other basic skill sets. The students of the institute would then set up freedom schools and day care centers to transmit Left Pan Africanism to the generation behind them. One of the books all African youth should study participating in the institute or not is The Anarchist Cookbook; it has some great recipe’s!

Davies, Caroline. “Deaths in police custody since 1998: 333; officers convicted: none” The Guardian. Friday December 2010.

Fanon, Frantz. Wretched of the Earth. Grove: New York. 1963.

Fessy, Thomas. “Senegal rapper Thiat rocks President Wade” BBC News. August 4, 2011.

Harker, John.” For Black Britons, this is not the 80s revisited. It's worse” The Guardian. Thursday August 11, 2011.

Harris, Daryl. The Logic of Black Urban Rebellions: Challenging the Dynamics of White Domination in Miami. London: Praeger. 1999.

James, Winston. “The Black Experience in Twentieth-Century Britain,” in Philip Morgan and Sean Hawkins, eds., The Black Experience and the Empire, Oxford History of the British Empire Companion Series (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2004).

Ramesh, Randeep. “More black people jailed in England and Wales proportionally than in US” The Guardian. October 11, 2011.

Thornburgh, Nathan. “London’s Long Burn.” Time Magazine. August 22, 2011.

Vasagar, Jevan. “Mark Duggan did not shoot at police, says IPCC” The Guardian. August 9, 2011.

“July 20 Protest Demands” Malawi Today. July 22, 2011.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Washington D.C.: A Case Study in Domestic Neo-Colonialism

Citizens of poverty are barely out of sight
Overlords escape in the evening with people of the night…..
It’s a mass of irony for all the world to see
It’s the nation’s capital, it’s Washington D.C.

-Gil Scott Heron (R.I.P.) “Washington D.C.”

In recent weeks, several newspapers such as the Washington Afro and Washington Post have included featured stories discussing the alleged corruption in D.C. government. As the Afro reported, the so-called scandals could have a potentially negative impact upon the righteous movement for DC statehood. In addition, on the same day the Post ran a story on D.C. government’s woes, it also published a story examining the increased economic inequality in the United States. This rising inequality, i submit, is a result of the neoliberal counterrevolution beginning in the early 1970s which promoted deregulation, privatization, and cuts in social services.

African America was not immune to these structural transformations that occurred in the U.S. economy. Economist Jessica Nembhard, Steven Pitts, and Patrick Mason assert since the 1960s “within-group [B]lack family inequality is higher than that of white families.” In other words, there is more income inequality within the Black community than within the white community. Although these two stories appear unrelated, i argue that both are directly correlated to the comprador bourgeois leadership that dominates African America.

Due primarily to the insurgent politics of the 1960s and 1970s, a wave of Black elected officials, including mayors and city council people, entered office in majority Black districts. At the same time, Richard “tricky dick” Nixon was implementing a policy of ‘law and order’ and co-optation by redefining Black Power as ‘Black capitalism’ and electoral politics.

During this period, labor activist and sociologist Robert Allen asserts “the white power structure sought to maintain hegemony by replacing direct white control of the internal Black colony with indirect neo-colonial white control through Black intermediary groups” similar to what happened to successful African independence movements as explained by Kwame Nkrumah.

For example, in 1967 the Ford Foundation donated $175,000 to CORE, a supposedly militant Black organization who advocated Black capitalism, for voter registration and economic development programs. Furthermore, Nixon expanded loans for the Small Business Administration. As political scientist Daryl Harris shows the 1973 Home Rule Act, which gave DC residents the right to vote for mayor and a thirteen member city council, was a product of the insurgent politics of the period. Unfortunately, due to the retrenchment of the movement, in 1995 DC government was required to answer to a Financial Control Board that must approve its annual budget.

Although the African community assumed that the election of Black mayors would lead to the improvement of their material conditions, the results are, at best, mixed. As Robert Allen states in Black Awakening in Capitalist America “Blacks are capable of exploiting one another just as easily as whites.” The DC mayor, Vincent Gray, is currently under investigation by the FBI, U.S. attorney, a congressional committee, and the DC council for paying and giving a job to Sulaimon Brown to attack the incumbent during the 2010 election. Brown has receipts and phone records to support his claim of nepotism and corruption.

According to a preliminary report issued by a council committee, City Council Chairman Kwame Brown ordered multiple SUV’s at $ 2,000/month, although it is illegal for the government to pay for SUV’s for government employees. More recently, city councilman Harry Thomas resigned as chair of the Economic and Development committee, after the attorney general filed a $1 million lawsuit against Thomas for allegedly using grant money and donations for his personal use. No, I’m not done.

Finally, right next door in Prince Georges County, county executive, Jack Johnson pled guilty to accepting bribes for everything from building permits to legislation. How has the Black majority fared under the negro mayoralship? Negro mayors have not stopped the process of displacement (i.e. gentrification). A case in point, in 1986, 82% of Washington DC was African but, according to the 2010 census, the district is now only 50% Black. Furthermore, mass incarceration grew unabated. Michelle Alexander estimates that in the district, three out of four Black men can expect to be imprisoned at some point in their lives.

After reading the above, it is obvious there are major class contradictions within the African nation that must be overcome before our people can progress. Former Black Panther member and current political prisoner Jalil Muntaqim proposed a three phase theory of national liberation in his groundbreaking book We Are Our Own Liberators.

In the first phase, we must directly challenge the current comprador negro leadership that collaborates with the U. S. government. At the same time, we must provide basic goods and services to the Black community then demand the Black elite take political positions that serve not just their own class interests but the masses as well. This action makes a sharp distinction between the revolutionary nationalist and the liberal assimilationist program so that the people can decide who serves their interests.

Many will accuse us of having a ‘Willie Lynch syndrome’ but, point of fact, the Willie Lynch letter has been proven to be a fraud ( Muntaqim warns that the class struggle may appear divisive but, the truth is, elite Africans have an opposing set of class interests to the masses of Black folk. We are simply exposing the contradictions for the world to see…..

Allen, Robert. Black Awakening in Capitalist America. Trenton, NJ: African World Press. 1992.

___________. “Reassessing the Internal (neo) Colonialism Theory. The Black Scholar. 35:1 Spring 2005 pp. 2-11.

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in Age of Colorblindess. New York: The New Press. 2010.

Butler Erica. “District Sues Councilman Thomas for $1M.” Washington Afro June 9, 2011

Craig, Tim. “Kwame Brown's SUV was illegal, Wells says” Washington Post 2/28/2011.

Jessica Gordon Nembhard, Steven Pitts, & Patrick L. Mason. “African American Intragroup Inequality and Corporate Globalization” African Americans in the U.S. Economy. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers INC. 2005.

Muntaqim, Jalil. We Are Our Own Liberators: Selected Prison Writings. Portland: Arissa Media Group. 2010.

Nikita Stewart, Jon Cohen, & Peyton Craighill. “D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray Popularity” Washington Post. June 19, 2011,

Pual Schwatzman and Ovetta Wiggins. “Jack B. Johnson’s Rise and Fall as Prince Georges County Executive” Washington Post June 5, 2011.

Ronald Walters & Toni-Michelle C. Travis (ed.). Democratic Destiny and The District of Columbia: Federal Politics and Public Policy. New York: Lanham Books. 2010.

Salmon, Barrington M. “D.C Council Scandals Disgust Residents” Washington Informer June 23-29.

Whoriskey, Peter. “With executive pay, rich pull away from rest of America” Washington Post June 19, 2011.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Corporate Fascism and African America

“Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are already dying who could be saved, that generations more will die or live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done, discover your humanity and your love in revolution. Pass on the torch. Join us, give up your life for the people.” -George Jackson

Its official, fascism is here. As the United States economy continues to deteriorate leading to imperial collapse, all pretenses of democracy are abandoned. Moreover, as political commentator Glen Ford notes fascism in the U.S. has distinguishing features from previous forms such as those that developed in twentieth century Russia, Italy, and Germany.

The most striking contemporary example is the state of Michigan which passed a law giving broad powers to declare a municipality insolvent, dissolve its local government and unions, and establish an appointed emergency “financial manager”. This new law and others like it will have a disproportionate negative impact on Blacks, particularly Black workers, due to the distinct form of national oppression they experience.

Beginning in the early twentieth century, large numbers of Africans in the southern United States began to migrate to Northern and western cities to escape white terrorism, legal segregation, and overall lack of economic opportunities.

One of those émigrés was a man from Alabama named James Boggs who migrated to Detroit. While a factory worker he wrote several tracts discussing Black liberation from a communist perspective. He wrote “automation replaces men. This of course is nothing new. What is new, is that now, unlike in earlier periods, the displaced men have nowhere to go.” Prefiguring Sidney Wilhelm’s Who Needs the Negro by several years, Boggs foresaw that deindustrialization and automation would have a devastating impact on Black workers recently arrived from the south who had secured work in the industrial sector.

Similarly, William Robinson in his work on global capitalism discusses the exclusion of almost one third of humanity from the global economy. In other words, large numbers of oppressed nationalities inside and outside the United States are surplus labor. In the 1960’s the frustration of these economic conditions resulted in urban rebellions all over the United States including Benton Harbor. In 2003, following a police chase that ended in the death of a young Black male, Benton Harbor, which is 92% African, exploded in three nights of rebellions.

Looking at the numbers it’s easy to see why. At the time, in neighboring St. Joseph, which is majority white, the median income was $37,032, Benton harbor’s was only $17,471. In addition, 32% of St. Joseph residents were college graduates but only 4% of Benton Harbor residents were college graduates. Today, nearly half of Benton Harbor lives below the poverty line.

In order to further the agenda of 21st century corporate fascism the governor of Michigan dissolved the city government and appointed a “financial manager”, who is paid $11,000 a month. The elected officials of the city are essentially now only allowed to open and close meetings. Andy Kroll, in an enlightening article in MotherJones titled “Behind Michigan's "Financial Martial Law” describes how the neoliberal think tank, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has promoted union busting, privatization, and emergency financial measures such as the one currently effecting Benton Harbor.

Furthermore, between 2002 to 2009 the Mackinac Center collectively received over $350,000 from right wing elites such as the Walton (Walmart), Davos (Amway), Koch, Prince (Blackwater now Xe) foundations. The current situation in Benton Harbor is an example of what Naomi Klein refers to as disaster capitalism. In short, disaster capitalism is an attempt by elites to push through extreme economic measures during periods of duress such as now, that normally would be rejected by the general population. The question is what do we do to confront and eliminate corporate fascism?

In 1969, James Boggs published a pamphlet “The Manifesto of a Black Revolutionary Party.” In the document he argues for the creation of an All-Black political party with the goal of overthrowing imperialism and capitalism and establishing a socialist system. Such a party is needed today. With the rise of corporate fascism, electoral politics loses even more credibility; therefore, the primary focus of the party should be organizing outside the electoral system. Using national liberation movements such as the Black Panther Party and Hezballoh (minus “Islamist” ideology) as a model, the party should orient its work around social programs such as liberation schools, free clinics, and other basic necessities that are needed by the majority of our community who have been virtually excluded from the American economy.

The goals of the social programs are to become full self-sustaining institutions, vehicles for recruitment, and to demonstrate to our people what socialism and self determination truly look like in a concrete way. The decline of the U.S. Empire has presented Black revolutionaries with an excellent opportunity but will they take advantage of this historical moment? Only time will tell….


Boggs, James. “Manifesto of a Black Revolutionary Party” in Pages from a Black Radical’s Notebook: a James Boggs Reader (ed.) Stephen M. Ward. Wayne State University: Detroit, MI. 2011.

Davey, Monica. “A State Manager Takes Over and Cuts What a City Can’t.” New York Times.

Ford, Glen. “Michigan’s “Emergency” Financial Regime: What Fascism Looks Like.”

Kroll, Andy. “Behind Michigan's "Financial Martial Law": Corporations and Right-Wing Billionaires” Mother Jones.

Paulson, Amanda. “Michigan Riots: Tales of Two Cities and the Gulf Between” Christian Science Monitor.

Jackson, Jesse. “Time for an Uprising in Benton Harbor” Chicago Sun Times.

Klein, Naomi. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Metropolitan Books: New York, NY. 2007.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Book Review of "We Are Our Own Liberators" by Jalil Muntaqim

This review originally appeared in Howard University student newspaper "The Hilltop" on April 10, 2011. It can be seen here

On May 18, 1975 Jalil Muntaqim, Herman Bell, and Albert "Nuh" Washington were sentenced for the murder of two police officers. The organization of which they were members, the Black Panther Party, was a target of the FBI's CounterIntelligenceProgram (COINTELPRO).

Although Cointelpro was created in 1956 to repress the Socialist/Communist Party, by the late 1960s its principle goal, according to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, was to "disrupt, discredit, and otherwise neutralize" revolutionary Black Nationalist organizations such as the Black Liberation Army, Revolutionary Action Movement, and Republic of New Afrika. The objective of these organizations was to form an independent Black nation out of five states in the southeastern U. S. where Black people have historically lived and developed through their labor.

Muntaqim follows in a long line of African freedom fighters that have used armed struggle to win land and independence in the Black Belt South. Herbert Aptheker states that in 1526 a group of enslaved Africans in contemporary South Carolina revolted then fled to the hills where they formed an independent maroon community. He asserts there were over fifty maroon communities in the U.S. and many more throughout the Americas. Moreover, exactly two hundred years ago, in 1811, Charles Deslondes led an insurrection of enslaved Africans in Louisiana for complete independence.

During the Reconstruction period, Tunis Campbell set up an independent government and army for Africans in America in what is today the South Carolina Sea islands. In short, as an activist and writer, he is not without precedent.

In the second edition of We Are Our Own Liberators, Muntaqim advances a political and economic program so that another generation can complete the objectives of the Black Power Movement. Following the maxims that "there has never been a successful revolutionary movement without revolutionary theory" and "without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary practice" he utilizes the principles of dialectical and historical materialism. This political theory has been employed by such illustrious revolutionaries as W. E. B. Dubois, Kwame Nkrumah, Kwame Toure (Stokely Carmichael), Mao Tse-Tung, Che Guevara and many more.

Muntaqim argues "the approach of most New Afrikans to social problems has always been a pragmatic or problem solving approach which is essentially anti-intellectual." The current generation can no longer afford to attempt to solve each problem as though it were an isolated phenomena.

Towards this end, in the chapter "National Strategy for FROLINAN" he develops a Three Phase Theory for National Independence: 1) Class Struggle for National Unity 2) National Unity for self government and 3) Self Government for National Independence.

In the first stage, we must directly challenge the current comprador negro leadership that collaborates with the U. S. government such as the CBC, NAACP, Urban League, National Action Network etc. At the same time, we must provide basic goods and services to the Black community then demand the Black elite take political positions that serve not just their own class interests but the masses as well.

In clear and unflinching language Muntaqim proclaims "the United States is an empire of monopoly-capitalist domination. The country's existence is based upon the domination (colonization) and exploitation of internal (domestic) and external nations."

Therefore, like Paul Robeson, Dubois and others he posits that the case of political prisoners must be taken to international organizations such as the United Nations and not stay confined to U.S. national borders. According to the U.N., all people have a right to a nationality and end colonial domination by any means necessary. Thus, Muntaqim was well within his human rights to engage in armed resistance against the state.

This book is pregnant with ideas that can give birth to a renewed spirit of Black political mobilization. Suffice to it to say this book must be thoroughly studied by the current generation of Black college students for its lesson from a person educated in revolutionary practice. This edition even includes Muntaqim's poetry which is "spewing molten volcanic ash of revolutionary ideas, casting pregnant black clouds of notions, castigating institutionalized white supremacy."

Saturday, January 15, 2011

'Where Do We Go From Here?' or Reclaiming Martin Luther King Jr.

(Warning: This is a repost from August 26, 2010)

Because it should never be
Just because some cannot see
The dream as clear as he
that they should make it become an illusion
And we all know everything
That he stood for time will bring
For in peace our hearts will sing
Thanks to Martin Luther King

-Stevie Wonder "Happy Birthday"

This Saturday August 28, 2010 is the 47th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. At this demonstration, Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) gave his most well-known and, at the same time, misunderstood speech. However, over the past few decades a controversy has erupted over the true legacy of MLK. The proto-fascist far right wing represented by Glenn Beck and the Tea party movement is sponsoring a march that, allegedly, supports the ideals of MLK. Similarly, the National Action Network and Al Sharpton are sponsoring a march to “Reclaim the Dream.” The truth is, neither one of these groups represent MLK. This weekend, as we are inundated with white corporate media propaganda, it is important to recall the final years of Dr. King’s life and legacy.

Following the passage of civil rights legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, MLK began to focus more on issues of economic justice. The economic problems that existed in the urban north were not the same as the segregated south. King began to question the very economic system itself stating “that something is wrong…with capitalism…there must be better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move towards a Democratic Socialism.”

His move towards socialism was also influenced by events in the so called Third World. King joined the Anti-War movement and took a stance against the War in Vietnam. In 1967, at Riverside Baptist Church in New York in a speech titled “A Time to Break the Silence” he called the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world” because of the destruction caused by napalm and other mass killing devices used by “his own government.” And finally, influenced by the anti-colonial movements occurring in Africa and Asia he started to refer to the slums and ghettos of America as a “a system of internal colonialism.”

As writers such as Frantz Fanon have shown, colonialism is not just economic but cultural and psychological as well. Centuries of oppression in the form of enslavement and segregation have had devastating effects upon the self-image and consciousness of African people. He noted that the assertiveness and confrontational style of the Civil Rights Movement helped to develop self-respect among Africans in the south.

Moreover, as Black Power advocates such as Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party gained ascendancy, he rejected complete assimilation into American society and strove for community empowerment. King stated “we must use every constructive means to amass economic and political power. This is the kind of legitimate power we need. We must work to build racial pride and refute the notion that [B]lack is evil and ugly.”

After the civil right victories and his move to advance community empowerment, Dr. King prophetically warned of the rise of the right-wing in the United States. He stated “the line of progress is never straight. For a period a movement may follow a straight line and then it encounters obstacles and the path bends….we are encountering such a period today. The inevitable counterrevolution that succeeds every period of progress is taking place.” In 1968 Republican Richard “tricky dick” Nixon won the Presidency and by 1980 the counterrevolution was complete with the election of Ronal Reagan.

These two elected officials would usher in a period of fiscal conservatism, state repression, color blindness, and personal responsibility. Unlike some of today’s negro leaders, King didn’t describe our problems as laziness, poor morals, or lack of personal responsibility but as a result systemic forces. He stated “true compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it understands that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring” and “the roots of [economic injustice] are in the system rather than in the faulty operations of men.”

At the end of his life Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. argued for a “radical restructuring of society” and “a revolution of values.” Before his assassination, he was in the process of building a multi-racial Poor People’s campaign for economic and racial justice. Any march that claims to follow in his tradition should continue where he left off. His political and economic program included: a guaranteed annual income, free housing, free education, free healthcare, and an end to all wars of foreign aggression. He believed this could be achieved by a massive civil disobedience campaign in major urban centers that causes the political and economic life of this country to come to a halt until issues affecting the poor are completely eliminated. Unfortunately, neither of these marches represents the real MLK, therefore, it is on those who believe in his vision today to build a real social movement for a revolutionary transformation of human society.

Forgotten MLK Quotes
“We must rapidly shift from a ‘thing’-oriented society to a ‘person’-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

“Although genuinely popular [Negro] leaders are now emerging, most are selected by white leadership, elevated to position, supplied with resources and inevitably subjected to white control.”

“I contend that the debate over the question of self-defense was unnecessary since few people suggested that Negroes should not defend themselves as individuals when attacked. The question was not whether one should use his gun in his home was attacked, but whether it was tactically wise to use gun while participating in an organized demonstration.”

Cone, James. (1992). Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare. New York: New York, Orbis Books.

__________. “Martin Luther King Jr. and the Third World.“ The Journal of American History. Vol. 74, No. 2 (Sep., 1987), pp. 455-467.

Dyson, Michael. (2000). I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King Jr. New York: New York, Free Press.

Washington, James (ed). (1986). A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King Jr. New York: New York, Harper One.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

"Update: From The Traditional Diaspora To Hip-Hop"

This presentation was part of an event titled "Update: From The Traditional Diaspora To Hip-Hop," held December 17th, 2010. The panel featured Dr. Jared Ball, Dr. Quito Swan, and Benjamin Woods and was followed by an audience open forum/Q&A. Footage from other panelists can also be found on our YouTube channel.

To order a copy of the DVD of this event and/or the program held on 12/18 ("Put Your Maroonage Where Your Mouth Is"), please contact

The Black Organizing Network is a Phoenix based group whose mission is to mobilize Black communities by empowering ourselves through education, grassroots community organizing and community development initiatives that provide opportunities for equity and redress. Please visit our site and contact us about how to become involved with our efforts!