Friday, October 19, 2012

Black Internationalism and Mass Incarceration

The 2008 financial collapse that began in the United States spread almost instantly to rest of the globe. Since the financial collapse, the resistance to the imposition of austerity measures has spread as well. For example, the Arab spring inspired the Indignado movement in Spain which motivated the white Left in the US to form the Occupy movement. Black people in the US must build upon their own history of internationalism in order to abolish the prison industrial complex.
For instance, internationalism was a regular feature of theabolitionist movement. After leaving Fredrick Douglas publication, the North Star, Black abolitionist Martin Delany held several conventions in the 1850s to decide a location for Black people to emigrate from the US. Also, he spoke to the Aleke or so called chief to set up trade between US Blacks and people in contemporary Nigeria. Finally, he traveled to Britain to build international support among abolitionists in Europe.
Almost a century later, Howard alumnus and professor, Alphaeus Hunton helped to lead the Civil Rights Congress. The CRC was a Black radical organization that protected the democratic and human rights of US Blacks. In 1951 they published and delivered to the United Nations “We Charge Genocide” a detailed portrait of the gross human rights violations against US Blacks.
Arguably, Black internationalism is one of the greatest threats to the US Empire. For example, during the anti communist Red scare several Black radicals were blacklisted, called in front of senatorial hearings and questioned about their political affiliations and, like Alphaeus Hunton, imprisoned. Great Black organizations such as the CRC, National Negro Congress, Southern Negro Youth Congress, and Council on African Affairs were destroyed and, worse yet, forgotten.
Perhaps most unfortunately, Black liberal organizations such as NAACP that adopted Black internationalism abandoned it once it was marked subversive by the US government. The NAACP adopted much of the Cold War rhetoric as well. This included condemning uncompromising former allies like Alphaeus Hunton who were prosecuted for their political beliefs
It is time to resurrect the spirit of Black internationalism! Several leaders in Latin America such as Guatemala and Costa Rica have expressed thier support for ending the war on drugs through decriminalization. This region is even more important because of the Left ward shift of its governments and the literally hundreds of millions of the Black people living in Central, South America, and Caribbean.
Due to the numerous embassies in Washington DC, Black students in the area are uniquely situated to build relationships with progressive governments. In addition, Black students in the NY area have access to the United Nations headquarters. Black internationalism will allow us to publicize the condition of Black people across the globe and bring the US on charges of human rights violations and Genocide. Only a few organizations have kept the flame of Black internationalism alive but now we must bring it back to the mainstream of Black political life.
Benjamin Woods is a student organizer and PhD candidate in Political Science at Howard University. His blog is He can be reached at

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