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Break the silence, refuse to be complicit

by Jesse Nevel

Report from National Chair to USM National Convention 2015 Uhuru! I would like to welcome everyone here today at the Uhuru Solidarity Movement’s National Convention here at the Paramount Plaza in Gainesville, Florida. I would like to acknowledge and salute the leadership of the African People’s Socialist Party, Chairman Omali Yeshitela.

Acknowledge other Party members. Acknowledge Chairwoman Penny Hess. Acknowledge the USM Members and Sustainers who are with us in person and online. I am the National Chair of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, a position I am honored to have been appointed to fill, by the African People’s Solidarity Committee, a cadre organization under the Party’s leadership, of which I am also a member.

The USM national steering committee is elected through the democratic participation of our members, which will be taking place on Sunday afternoon. If you are not yet a member you can join today which will give you voting credentials in tomorrow’s election. I would like to begin by giving an overview of the role of USM under the direction of the Party’s African People’s Solidarity Committee and the history of this movement, in Gainesville and beyond. The African People’s Solidarity Committee was formed by the African People’s Socialist Party in 1976. The African People’s Socialist Party, led by Chairman Omali Yeshitela, is a worldwide organization of the African working class, struggling to liberate and unify Africa and African people and rid African people of this six centuries long condition of colonial oppression that has benefited the white world at their expense. Many of you saw the flyer for this event, which says, this is a call to white people to stand in solidarity with black liberation. And indeed, this is an organization of white people. But it is not a white-led organization.

It is under the leadership of the African People’s Socialist Party.

That is our first principle of unity: We are under the Party’s leadership.

Our second principle of unity: we unconditionally support the right of Africans and oppressed peoples to self-determination.

Our third principle of unity: we organize in the white community for reparations to African people.

The USM is the mass, membership-based organization of the African People’s Solidarity Committee.

APSC members are involved in numerous fronts of the Uhuru Movement—assigned by the Party to coordinate economic institutions such as Uhuru Furniture stores in Philadelphia and Oakland, and Uhuru Foods and Pies, world famous delicious foods that raise resources for African economic self-reliance.

USM is APSC’s political voice in the world, speaking to the masses, opening the doors wide open for every person who wants to be part of the struggle against oppression to play a role in whatever way possible.

What we do: we go out and organize, everyday if possible, into the white communities in which we reside, and we bring the Uhuru Movement’s message of Reparations and African Self-determination to other white people.

We do outreach tables. We do events. We do film showings. We do benefit concerts. We do protests. We do everything we can to build a mass movement in the white community for reparations to African people.

We’ve seen numerous mass movements emerge in the past few years as the system of imperialism and capitalism is in intense crisis.

We saw the Occupy movement, comprised largely of white people, concerned with recovering our student loan debt and bridging the gap between the so called 1% and the 99%.

USM is different.

USM understands that as Chairman Omali says, the people of Pakistan, chased by drones, suffering and dying for the interests of white power, are not worried about our student loans. They want liberation and self-determination.

We are not the 99%. We are the top 20% wealthiest people on the planet, while over half the people on the world live on less than $2 per day.

We are the oppressor nation. We are the children of the slavemaster, nourished by the profits of slavery and ongoing colonial oppression.

We are fighting to build a mass movement of WHITE people whose slogan is “Reparations Now!” Can you imagine, if we flooded the streets of Wall Street calling for reparations to African people for centuries of oppression and exploitation?

Reparations to African people is the lynchpin of the struggle against this brutal, greedy, profit-driven social and economic system.

A free Africa and African people, cannot coexist with a capitalist system.

So if we occupy for an end to capitalism, we have to occupy for reparations.

We’ve also seen white people in this city and throughout the country who claim to be engaged in the struggle against racism.

Here in Gainesville just a few months ago there was a meeting held by the Civic Media Center to provide “anti-racist” workshops to white people, to help us “unlearn our racism.”

That is not what we will be doing in this convention this weekend, and we do not believe in doing that.

Chairman Omali Yeshitela has taught us that racism are the ideas in our heads that have historically united us with our ruling class against the African and Indigenous nations.

Racism is the set of ideas used to justify colonialism—a system in which the entire people are dominated by another people and a foreign hostile power for the economic well-being and political advantage of the oppressor nation.

We, white people, are the oppressor nation. We could get rid of every last racist thought in our brains but does that change the fact that every 26 hours the police or white vigilantes shoot black people on the streets of this country? No, it does not.

It is not just the politicians, the militarists, the warmongers, the plantation owners, the slavers, who got engorged by the blood, sweat and suffering of billions of black and brown people.

It was also us, each and every last one of us.

And we owe a debt. It’s more than an apology. We owe more than a penny a day to a child in Uganda. No, we owe our very lives. We owe reparations.

This convention today represents a historic advance by the African People’s Socialist Party in its strategy to liberate and unify Africa and African people worldwide.

Four years after its founding the African People’s Socialist Party in 1976 formed the African People’s Solidarity Committee as an organization under its leadership whose specific mission would be to work in the white community to build political and material solidarity from the white community with the struggle for African liberation.

The formation of the solidarity committee was not without struggle. It took us white people a long time to get with this program. The battle goes back to the late 1960s when a powerful Black organization, called the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, made a decision that sent shockwaves throughout the whole “activist” scene at that time.

Throughout the 50s and 60s there were these white progressives who “loved” the black community so much that they insisted on organizing in the black community. In 1966 the SNCC leadership came together and issued a magnificent edict called the Vine City Paper. You can find it on the internet. Go on google and search “Vine City Paper”

In that paper the SNCC organizers wrote: “It must be offered that white people who desire change in this country should go where that problem (of racism) is most manifest. That problem is not in the Black community. The white people should d go into white communities where the whites have created power for the express purpose of denying Blacks human dignity and self-determination. Whites who come into the Black community with ideas of change seem to want to absolve the power structure of its responsibility for what it is doing, and saying that change can only come through Black unity, which is only the worst kind of paternalism.” Later in the paper, SNCC wrote: “In an analysis of our history in this country, we have been forced to come to the conclusion that 400 years of oppression and slavery suffered in this country by our Black forebears parallels in a very graphic way the oppression and colonization suffered by the African people, The questions can be rightfully asked, what part did the white colonizers play in the liberation of independent African Nations; who were the agitators for African independence? Answers to those questions compel us to believe that our struggle for liberation and self-determination can only be carried out effectively by Black people.” That was 1966.

All of the white people in SNCC, SDS and other white liberal and left groups at the time, who had loved black power so much yesterday, suddenly found themselves disenchanted with the black struggle, now that the Black Power movement was setting the conditions in no uncertain terms for the role of white people.

All of the white people in SNCC left the organization and forgot all about the black community altogether. They threw themselves head first into the student’s rights campaigns, LSD trips, white women’s rights to be equal to the white man, and then discovered Vietnam.

It was another 10 years, in 1976, when the African People’s Socialist Party, whose founder Chairman Omali Yeshitela had been the leader of SNCC in St Pete, took up the SNCC call for principled solidarity and formed the African People’s Solidarity Committee under its leadership with the purpose of organizing in the white community to build solidarity with Black Power.

The word “Solidarity” had long been bandied around as a buzz word by white leftists and self defined white radicals. For years after the brutal military destruction of the Black Revolution of the 60s, in which 30 plus members of the Black Panther Party were killed, the terms for what solidarity should look like were firmly in the hands of white people, who were generally unscathed by the COINTELPRO program that the FBI initiated to beat back the tide of human progress in the Sixties. Solidarity committees of all stripes were formed in which white people would do things like weave baskets in the style of Indigenous people as a show of “solidarity.” Or occasionally send a few materials or funds to national liberation struggles thousands of miles away to whom they had no accountable relationship. With the creation of the African People’s Solidarity Committee, the white solidarity free-for-all came to an end. This is solidarity, said the Black Working class.

This is solidarity and it is deeper than words.

Solidarity means we recognize that we have been the bloodsuckers, the murderers, the rapists, living off the toil and misery of African people for 600 years.

Solidarity means we can no longer stand the sight of Mike Brown’s blood on our hands, Trayvon’s blood on our hands, of millions of Indigenous people’s blood on our hands, of Pakistan’s blood on our hands, Gaza’s blood on our hands, Congo’s blood on our hands, Mexico’s blood on our hands.

Solidarity means we wish to use those hands, long bloodied by the imperial devastation our government has wrought in our name, to contribute to the building of a new society, freed from oppression, genocide, slavery, rape and torture.

Solidarity means that we make a conscious effort to shed our opportunism. Solidarity means that we stop trying to fight for a bigger piece of the pie for ourselves, or an elimination of conflict within a fundamentally oppressive society, and commit our lives to stand with oppressed and colonized peoples whose victory over imperialism strikes at the root of a parasitic system that endangers all of life on this planet.

Solidarity means we subordinate our short-term, narrow interests to the long-term interests of the rest of humanity, in whose liberation from white oppression we can begin to find our own genuine liberation, free from opportunism, for the first time in our history. Solidarity for those of us who are gay, lesbian, trans or queer, or a woman, or disabled—raped by this society, beaten by this society, degraded by this society, driven to near suicide by this society—we see that our oppression takes place in the context of white power built on black oppression, and Black Power’s defeat of white power is the only roadway to a world in which we ourselves are free to live and prosper peacefully and happily. Black Power is people’s power, the power of NO OPPRESSION. Solidarity with African liberation is our engagement in the creation of a humane, just and peaceful future.

History of the Party in Gainesville

We hold this convention today, for the first time in The City of Gainesvile. In the past we have held it in California, Phialdelphia, St. Petersburg, but today, we hold it in Gainesville: and some people have asked me, Why Gainesville? As quiet as it’s kept by the white left: The Uhuru Movement brought revolutionary politics to Gainesville. It was in Raiford, Florida, just minutes from Gainesville, where our leader, Chairman Omali Yeshitela was brutally forced to labor on a chain gang for three years after he was thrown in jail for an act of civil disobedience in St. Petersburg, Florida in which he boldly tore down a racist mural from the walls of St Pete City Hall. Gainesville was the hometown of Katura Carey, a black freedom fighter and school teacher whose organization, the Gainesville Black Study Group, merged with the Black Rights Fighters and the Junta of Militant Organizations in 1972 to form the African People’s Socialist Party. APSP Chairman Omali Yeshitela writes in An Uneasy Equilibrium: “The Gainesville Black Study Group was an organization of mostly students who were organized by Party co-founder Katura Carey, a school teacher in the Gainesville, Florida area. The Black Study Group brought us into our first meaningful political contact with Africans from the Continent. These were primarily political refugees from Rhodesia, with whom the Party would build the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) Support Committee to support the African independence struggle in white settler-colonial Rhodesia.”

It was in 1973 in Gainesville when the Party led a massive, 38 mile march to the Florida State Prison at Starke to expose the inhumane living conditions imposed on the prisoners there. It was in Gainesville in 1979 where the Party courageously took to the streets and spoke out in defense of the Iranian people and developed deep relationships with Iranian students exiled from their homeland by the brutal CIA-installed Shah. When the Islamic revolution overthrew the Shah, the African People’s Socialist Party shot to international recognition when they led a demonstration in solidarity with the Iranian people and pushed back vicious reactionary attacks by frothing American patriots. In 2012 the Uhuru Movement led a victorious struggle in defense of a teenaged African named Eric Oliver, living in nearby Bronson, who was locked up for defending himself and his family from a white lynch mob. The Uhuru Movement mobilized the first demonstration ever held in the small town of Bronson! Many of the black residents of predominantly-white Bronson are descended from refugees of the 1923 Rosewood massacre, in which a prosperous African community was burned to the ground by a white mob. The Uhuru Solidarity Movement, under the Party’s leadership, has continued to organize in Gainesville, Florida over the past five years, holding “Days in Solidarity with African People” events with Party leaders such as Gaida Kambon and Chimurenga Waller, and Penny Hess, the Chair of the African People’s Solidarity Committee. It is on the platform of this proud history of struggle that USM resolved to hold our national convention here in this city.

The African People’s Socialist Party was leading struggles for black community control of police in Gainesville, Florida in the early 70s. Today the struggle has intensified to a new period. It is time for white people to stand up in solidarity with black liberation and self-determination. I know you’re here because you don’t want to live in a society where the price of my safety, security and prosperity is constant murder, rape, torture, harassment, and mass imprisonment of the black and brown peoples of the world. You don’t want to live in a world where my every dream and aspiration requires drone strikes, depleted uranium and white phosphorous unleashed upon children and babies. You don’t want to live in a world where just a few minutes away from where we live there is starvation, homelessness, police murders, extreme imposed poverty, deplorable housing, and other despicable colonial conditions of oppression inflicted upon the African population.

My friends and comrades: it is time to burst the bubble of white isolation and complicity. We have to take a stand.

Thank you for joining us in raising up the call for every white person to break ranks with this historically anti-black social system that has nourished us for centuries and raise high the banner of Black Power and Liberation.

Break the Silence! Refuse to be Complicit!