ANGELA DAVIS: THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES
By Fahim A. Knight-El
I wanted to share with my Blog audience my recent thoughts on meeting the former Black Panther Angela Davis and give you all an update on a most powerful event that took place at North Carolina Central University (yes my wife and I alma mater) in Durham, North Carolina on February 10, 2016. NCCU made us as alumnus very proud last night by inviting Dr. Angela Davis one of the most provocative Black Power theoretician and revolutionaries of the 20th Century (her militant and revolutionary credentials speaks volumes about her social activism and her rise to become one of best known faces and voices of Black Power Movement in the 1960s and 1970s). She was once a political prisoner charged with many capital offenses in the state of California and was facing death row; her political experiences with the state, police and the judicial system was no different than the type of persecution that George Jackson (Soledad Brothers) and Geronimo Pratt experienced as militant and radical freedom fighters.
Davis speech gave us a brief glimpse into her mindset; she stated that she became radicalized at age two. The North Carolina Central University students are putting on a speaking series that is called Rock-the-Mic (Ajamu Dillahunt-Holloway a student activist is an example of how good our future looks like) and perhaps it is taking place in conjunction with Black History Month in which they hosted the former Black Panther Revolutionary sister Angela Davis as one of the premier keynote speakers for this month.
She reminded us that the Black Panther Party is celebrating their 50th year anniversary in 2016. Perhaps our greatest female entertainer of recent years Beyoncé who as part of Super Bowl 50th (held in Santa Clara) half-time entertainment show had sisters dressed in leather and in formation of how Blank Panther Party used line up as paramilitary organization and she has been criticized by the white corporate media for being insensitive towards the police, in particular citing the Panthers antagonism towards the police. Thus, from their perspective Beyoncé was making an unfair political statement—I applaud this young entertainer and we should support her as an artist for having the right to creatively express herself even if is making a political statement.
Rudolph “Rudy” Giuliani, a reactionary racist who was part of the internal conspiracy that led to the bombing of the World Trade Center and the restructuring of how the One World Government is being carried out today; he should have been charged with the mass murders of 3,000 human beings in the 9/11 hoax, a front man for Larry Silverstein and the Hidden Hand. Yet, this criminal walked away from this high level deception and crime unblemished. The former mayor of New York just about accused Beyoncé of inciting people against the police and pretty much said she needed to stay in her lane as an entertainer and this reactionary pawn has been leading this negative and critical charge against the entertainer Beyoncé.
I will say this, I do not think Beyoncé understands the political dynamics nor does she understand how the world works (naïve would be an understatement), but her husband Jay-Z does know a lot about his history and culture and he himself perhaps is either a closet member and/or sympathizer of the Nation of Gods and Earths (the Five Percenters). Nevertheless, by me understanding the political and theoretical values of this group whom at times have aligned and embraced black nationalist politics and ideologies, it was easy for me interpret where and how Beyoncé’s show came about. Jay-Z was publically seen wearing the NGE medallion (and there is little doubt in my mind the Black Panther skit probably was orchestrated and came from the mind of her husband Jay-Z who is a lot more politicized than his wife Beyoncé).
Giuliani's type rhetoric is not only reactionary, but it permeates with the mood and present day era of the United States Patriot Act, National Defense Authorization Act and the Enemy Combatant laws (embodied in the long arm of Homeland Security). His reckless commentary stood as an assault on the First Amendment Right and it is meant to further expand the United States assault on our basic civil liberties as American citizens.
Dr. Davis speech allowed my mind to shifted immediately to the founders of the Black Panther Party Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale—who decided early on to make a difference (in my dorm room as a college student most students had pictures of athletes such as Julius ‘Dr. J’ Irving, George Gervin, David Thompson, Wilt Chamberlain, Lynn Swann, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Irvin 'Magic' Johnson, etc., in my room I had huge posters of the Minister of Defense, the iconic picture of Huey P. Newton sitting in that chair with the gun belt and the pump rifle, I also had a picture of Minister Malcolm X with depicting his famous words "by any means necessary", a picture of Muhammad Ali stating hadn't the Vietcong called me Nigger and hell no I will not go to Vietnam" and I had this picture of the black bald headed General of the Nation of Islam Dr. Minister Khallid Abdul Muhammad on my wall.
Yes, I would expose my student peer group by teaching them about the value of revolutionary politics, because these said black leaders changed my mental paradigm and my worldview—as a young college student at NCCU, I no longer was interested in just being an ordinary Negro who was walking around campus lost to the knowledge of self. Newton and Seal were young students when they founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense on the West Coast in 1966 (thus when I was a college student at NCCU, I was considered to have been a radical and militant student activist).
I and Dr. Reverend William T. Barber (North Carolina President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) were students and classmates at NCCU together; he was the Student Government Association president. Thus, even as a student Dr. Barber was engaged in political and community activism (he loved Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his approach to civil rights and integration and I equally loved Minister Malcolm X—El-Hajj Malik Shabazz who was a fierce revolutionary Black Nationalist). Dr. Barber and I as students would have these political and intellectually engaging conversations about the plight of African American people and even when we disagreed both us believed in social justice and we found common ground around issues involving social justice.
A couple a years ago Reverend Jesse Jackson, a so-called progeny of Dr. King and graduate of North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, NC was speaking at NCCU in which my wife and my daughter and I were leaving the program and Brother Dr. William Barber motioned to me and at that time I had not spoken with him in some years and asked who was this young lady with me and I said she was my daughter. He stopped and he started telling my daughter about our political experiences at NCCU as students and he also told my daughter that he wanted to thank me, your father for his militant and non-compromising positions, because his political positions encouraged me and better helped me to redefine my role as a civil rights activist (my daughter said wow, dad I did not know that as a student you were engaged in cultural, political and social agitation). This became a teachable moment and I immediately gave her a charge to stand up for the causes of African American people and told her she has a responsibility to be a drummer major for justice. Lets continue to train our young people and give them the activism tools to stand up against white supremacy and injustice. This also was the essential message of Angela Davis last night (the sad phenomenon is 50 years later in 2016 we are have the same conversation that led her into a movement of activism).
I have digressed a bit, but listening to Dr. Angela Davis speak last night and sitting at B.N. Duke Auditorium the spirit in the room was overwhelming and it was not deja-vu, because no doubt, I had been in this same auditorium many times before as a student, but her message immediately resonated with me, because as she spoke I realized that hadn't to much changed over the years since I sat in this auditorium as a student. She mentioned that she was a by-product of HBCUs in which her father was a graduate of Saint Augustine University in Raleigh, NC and mother was a graduate of Miles College in Birmingham, Alabama.
Davis speech had many themes, but as much as she was one of the prominent political faces and voices of the 1960s and 1970s radical left it was not a total speech of personal historical nostalgia, although, I would have loved to heard more about her relationship with militant revolutionary such as Kwame Ture (Stokley Carchmichael), Huey P. Newton, Elaine Brown, and Eldridge Cleaver, but she kept her talk more on present day relevant themes such as wealth disparity, the impact of the prison industrial complex in which the United States as an industrialized nation has the largest prison population in world. A little over 2.5 million people according to the United States Justice Department are in U.S. prisons, but there are another 5 million prisoners who are under some type of court, probation and/or judicial restraints. She maintained that large private prison industries have created a Wall Street Market and the United States Government has systematically ‘commodified’ inmates (human beings) and has politically and socially created the environment for mass incarceration of black men.
Dr. Davis at times within her speech, it was evident that her political worldview was shaped by socialist Marxist ideology, in particular when she stated that all public education should be free (I was sitting right behind the chancellor and some of the university staff as she made the statement and I was trying to determine their pulse) and she criticized the U.S. and global class structures as being an antagonistic contradiction and she furthered her Marxist interpretations by hailing labor and describing the present day attack on labor unions as being reactionary and outrageous (the only Marxist language she missed was analyzing history strictly as continuous war between the Lumpenproletariate and the Bourgeoisie).
I said to myself that the Black Panther Party who started out as a Black Nationalist Organization eventually transitioned into a new type of organization in the early 1970s who had moved further to the left by embracing the Socialist model and many of the Panthers leadership begin to use the Mao Se Tung (Red Book), Karl Marx and Frantz Fanon political analysis, which to create a new language and ideological approach in this once Black Power movement in their quest of confronting U.S. imperialism and colonialism. They started to see the world from an economic determinist perspective and even at expanded their political alliances by embracing progressive white allies, which was a clear departure from their initial Black Nationalist disposition.
Dr. Angela Davis embodies these various political experiences and it is understandably that she seems to vacillates philosophical between being once a young activist who came to age to age in the 1960s and 1970s (but not allowing herself to become entrapped totally in the greatness of yesterday’s struggle but realize that we have even more struggles today) and at her age she seems to view the struggle more as an insightful intellectual and academician, but this statement should not be interpreted that she has relegated her struggles against white supremacy, police brutality, state supported racism, classism, etc., to being transformed into some idealist armchair revolutionary. Dr. Davis is a black activist woman who is in her early 70s, but is still very much passionate about the liberation of black people and still has the will to raise a voice of opposition (by speaking truth to power) against the various power apparatus that dominates the social, political, and economic plight of humanity.
She condemned the fact 90% of wealth is the hands of 1% of the population who represent the super elite and understand that humanity's destiny is tied to bankers and capitalist interest in which poverty and the imbalance of resources impacts humanity's quality of life relative to obtaining adequate housing, adequate education, adequate health care, etc. She condemned U.S. capitalism as an evil system disguised as a democracy in which has created societal disparities. She lean and gave a more of political nod towards the political position of the Independent presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, because he understands how devastating the bankers and the U.S. corporate sector has been as parasites. But I think she questions whether not he understands how destructive white privilege and how systemic racism is in America, which has led to the present day racial climate and the police killing innocent black men is a mere symptom of this problem—the people have organized through groups like the Black Lives Matter Movement and she would like know where Sanders stands on matters of dealing with race.
Dr. Davis stated that we have moved towards a very dangerous paradigm and has transitioned us into a police state and she called for a demilitarization of the police departments and she also called for disarming everyone as a solution to ending and curtailing violence (stating there are more guns in our American society than people). She stated that racism and police brutality were the same issues that confronted the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and she challenged the audience to go back and re-read the Black Panther Party "10 POINT PLAN" and stated the points are still relevant today in 2016 explicitly implying that haven't too much changed since the 1960s.
She continued throughout her speech to connect the present day black youth movements such as the Black Lives Matter movement by viewing these young inspired visionaries as being progressive and represents a continuum of activist freedom fighters who have sought to fight injustices and became organized, which led to a galvanization of a new generation of freedom fighters working in the tradition of Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells Barnett, Fredrick Douglas, W.E. Dubois, Paul Robeson, etc. Black Lives Matter Movement must be analyze and critiqued within the context of today’s political, economic and social climate. Frantz Fanon once wrote and said in his book Wretched of the Earth that each generation has the duty and responsibility to make revolutionary history by reviewing the history before them (they will either confirming it or betray it).
But they are not obligated to use the same strategies and tactics of previous comrades, but they do have an obligation and duty to review the past struggles; either to confirm those principles and tenets as being valid or determine them as being flawed. Only history will provide us with the proof that an organization or movement has met the standards of being classified as progressive and worked in the interests of the people’s revolution. And yet simultaneously, it also, allows us the ability to analyze them to determine if they were reactionary and contradictory and will have a counter-revolutionary affect on the present day struggle and must be dismissed. Time dictates the methods of struggle and as much as the Black Power Movement of the 1960s and 1970s taught us, we have to measure its successes and failures relative to how effective those same strategies and tactics would be in organizing progressive movements today.
I commend these young black people for being bold and courageous in daring to confront the white supremacy police state and was willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause of black justice. They took to the streets in Ferguson, Missouri and demanded justice for the wrongful death of Michael Brown at the hands of a reactionary racist police department. Fredrick Douglas once stated, if you cannot do anything, but agitate the enemy, let that be suffice. I like these young brothers and sisters because they did not want to hear anything being said by these sellout and handkerchief head Negro leaders and preacher (they are always sent in by boss to keep the masses calm and under control and toting that Bible).
She applauded those young activist who in Florida who after the murder of Trevyon Martin became organized in order to brining public attention to the police arrest and convictions of black men and the unjust disparities in the criminal justice system that have always been rooted in race and class. Also Davis continued to applaud the black students at the University of Missouri where students, underpaid workers, professors, and the Missouri football team stood in solidarity against systematic practices of racism on that campus, which led to the firing of the university president and she further applauded the young activist in Ferguson, Missouri for their courage (and reminded us that she had just left Spain and there were people in Spain imitating our culture and was inspired by black U.S. Hip Hop artists--cultural and political linkages) and stated that the Palestinians on the West Bank and on Gaza Strip who has been in a 68 year war against Zionist reactionary forces and they were one of the first international group to stand in solidarity with the black people in Ferguson.
The Black Lives Matter Movement represented a new spirit and a generation that wasn’t going to take injustice lying down anymore and most of all, had no ties to the established Negro leadership (interpreted to meaning they could not control the temperament of the movement and make no mistake about it, it was hot). However, Black Lives Matter Movement came about almost like putting the cart before the horse (the political chain of events called them into action i.e. police brutality) and the movement, is in its early infancy stage in which leadership and direction are not well defined and the organizational theoretical and philosophical piece, is a work in progress (it is just to early to be judged and to attempt to determine what its future mission is going to be). I do like their zeal for activism and some of these other things will eventually work itself out. The enemy will always seek co-opt progressive movements in order to control its direction and may be some of this is already happening inside of Black Lives Matter Movement.
She characterized the present day liberation struggle as a continuation of the abolitionist movement and maintained that although we think of this movement as being 18th and 19th century—lynching and slavery transitioned into new forms of oppression and degradation, which is mass incarceration of black men. She gave a list of former Black Panther members who are still political prisoners and have remained incarcerated since the turbulent 1960s and many have languished in U.S. prisons for over four decades. Dr. Angela Davis also cautioned us about the new U.S./Cuba diplomatic initiatives and although she praised this new foreign policy course—she reminded us that our sister Assata Shakur is still considered on the F.B.I most wanted list with a 2 million dollar bounty hanging over her head, she stated we have to find ways to protect and defend Assata Shakur.
The potential of removing Shakur’s protected exile status in which the Cuban Government has provided her with for over four decades would be unthinkable. Moreover, anything other than this position could jeopardize and compromise her international protection from the long arm of the United States Government. This would be a political travesty for the former U.S. prisoner of war by potentially allowing the U.S. government to take international legal custody of Shakur and further allowing her to becoming a political casualty of the new U.S. and Cuba foreign policy. This would be an act of political betrayal and would not represent the long term commitment and relations the nation of Cuba and Castro have had with revolutionaries and political prisoners from around the world. Thus, forty years later, she still would not get a fair trial under the United States jurisprudence system. Lastly, African Americans and all people of goodwill should be lobbying the United States Government and petitioning President Barack Obama to issue Assata Shakur a presidential pardon and commute her sentence.
Fahim A. Knight-El Chief Researcher for KEEPING IT REAL THINK TANK located in Durham, NC; our mission is to inform African Americans and all people of goodwill, of the pending dangers that lie ahead; as well as decode the symbolism and reinterpreted the hidden meanings behind those who operate as invisible forces, but covertly rules the world. We are of the belief that an enlightened world will be better prepared to throw off the shackles of ignorance and not be willing participants for the slaughter. Our MOTTO is speaking truth to power. Fahim A. Knight-El can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay Awake Until We Meet Again,
Fahim A. Knight-El