“…I cannot disassociate myself from the future that is proposed for my brother.”
Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, p. 89.
“…When [J. Edgar] Hoover initiated his counterintelligence [program], that was a form of genocide. They threatened to destroy anybody in the black community that was a leader. ANYBODY. So, they declared war on us 25-30 years ago, and that war is still going on right now. That’s why those in power are so afraid of our unification, because you can only keep a person [or a people] down for so long. Then when unification comes, all of us have the same damn enemy, and they can’t have that. But they can’t stop it.”
Minister Fontain, United In Peace
The Lumpen Times, Vol. 2, No. 13
Let’s “Gang-Up” on Oppression the struggle for power in oppressed communities -Haki Shakur
Soon after the original version (Parts One and Two) of this piece was published in CROSSROAD in 1994, members of our Collective began discussing the possible need to revise and expand the piece. We felt that certain points could be more clearly and forcefully made, and that We should set out more of the political perspective of the Collective and of the New Afrikan Independence Movement (NAIM).
We became more determined to revise and expand the piece after Larry Hoover and members of the Gangster Disciples/Growth and Development were indicted by the U.S. in the fall of 1995. We felt that We had to make a public statement about these indictments as they relate to the themes of this piece, i.e., that the U.S. will target any sector of the Afrikan community (and other oppressed communities) which seeks to acquire power in order to develop the community in a revolutionary manner.
Kiwe & Damu Umoja/Unity is a Must(Tookie Know)/ Gang Term Originated in Slavery – Haki Kweli Shakur
We think that note should first be taken of similar indictments, brought by the U.S. little more than ten years earlier, against Abdul Malik Kabah Khalifah (aka Jeff Fort) and members of the El Rukns. To us, it is significant that both sets of indictments were brought as the targeted organizations were involved in a process of political transformation, and each had engaged in actions which directly challenged U.S. interests, on local and/or international levels.
Subsequent to the original publication of this piece (and, after the indictment of Hoover and other members of Growth and Development), people throughout the U.S. and the world became more aware of the role played by the U.S. in creating the flood of drugs into Afrikan communities — in this instance, via the C.I.A., in the 1980s. The August, 1996, series run by the San Jose Mercury News was in no way an actual “revelation” to political activists and large numbers within the Afrikan and other oppressed communities. However, those articles did serve — as no other U.S. media coverage before them had — to reach a mass audience, generating anger and frustration, while also confirming for many their suspicions of the existence of genocidal policies and programs directed against Afrikan people within the U.S., orchestrated by the U.S. government.
People in Chicago didn’t need the Mercury News to tell them that the U.S. was, in the mid-80s, trying to flood Afrikan communities with crack cocaine — people in Chicago already knew this, because they knew that the El Rukns were, in the mid-1980s, struggling to enforce a policy that aimed to prevent the spread of crack cocaine within the city of Chicago, generally, and to prevent its spread within Chicago’s Afrikan communities, in particular.
That the El Rukns would have a policy to prevent the spread of crack didn’t seem unusual to anyone with a knowledge of the history of that organization. Dating back to the 1960s, the El Rukns and other street organizations in Chicago had involved themselves with the Civil Rights and the Black Power/Nationalist movements. They had marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. over housing issues; they had demonstrated for jobs for construction workers. Even though on occasion they had been tricked into playing reactionary roles in certain struggles in the city (not unlike so many of the so-called “legitimate” political, religious, and business forces within the Afrikan community), they had made great strides to become part of the revolutionary nationalist thrust of our people in the 1960s and early 1970s.
By the early 1980s, Abdul Malik and the El Rukns had begun to take new initiatives in their program of progressive political transformation, and they had already seen what crack cocaine was doing to the Afrikan communities in places like New York and Los Angeles. The El Rukn policy against the entry of crack into Chicago was intended to prevent the inevitable devastation of the Afrikan community that was sure to follow its sale and use. Therefore, We believe that it was no accident that the entry and rapid spread of crack cocaine in Chicago coincided with the attack by the U.S. and Chicago authorities upon the El Rukns in the mid-1980s!
When the U.S. indicted Larry Hoover in 1995, they claimed (for public consumption) that he had been involved in the sale of drugs “for the past twenty years” — failing to remind us that the U.S. government itself had played a major role in creating both the supply and the demand for drugs in our communities! Moreover, no one thought to ask why the U.S. waited until 1994 to begin the investigation that led to the 1995 indictment!
We suggest that Larry Hoover and the other members of Growth and Development weren’t targeted and indicted for their involvement in the drug scene, but rather, that they were indicted because they were trying to get out of that scene and enter an arena that the U.S. feels that it must control at all costs: electoral politics, particularly in oppressed communities.
Everyone in the Afrikan community with eyes and ears knows that Hoover was indicted because, over the past ten years (at least) he’s led the “Gangster Disciples” in a process of transition into an organization to become known as “Growth and Development”. This new organization was inspired by a new concept, which had it well on its way in a process of political, economic, and social transformation that had begun to present a serious challenge to the power of the local political machine and its lackeys within the Afrikan community.
Let there be no mistake: We are not trying to glorify or romanticize Larry Hoover, the GD’s, the El Rukns, nor any street organization. What We are saying, in part, is that Hoover’s indictment did not result from the U.S. governments concern for the devastation of Afrikan communities caused by drug sales and drug use. Rather, We believe that Hoover was indicted (just as Abdul Malik before him), because of the new vision that he had acquired and which he was trying to share with other street organizations not only in Chicago, but throughout the U.S.! He was indicted because, for example, he (and others) had worked and were continuing to work to maintain a peace among street organizations, so that they could begin to redirect their energies in ways that would ensure the survival of their people, and the development of their communities.
In a 1993 “Call for Peace” directed toward all Chicago street organizations, Larry Hoover said: “The time is NOW for a total refocusing of our efforts, away from nonproductive distractions and other elements of temptations, and focus toward those disciplines that will make us real men in our communities. We must stop the gangbanging and drive-bys. Our race is being destroyed by the killing of our own youth. We must stop hating one another because of the color jacket or hat that is worn, or the way a person wears his hat. These actions only feed the fire to destruction.
“And finally, in my sincere appeal for peace and unity: Those of us that have experienced being our brothers’ keeper — We must educate our members around us. Education brings about awareness. Awareness generates the ability to think. Our youth must know the end result of crime is shame, disgrace, and imprisonment to themselves, as well as the community. We must come to the point of outlawing those who willfully disrupt our communities and our call for peace and unity. Crime must not be accepted as the normal way of doing things. For We are all together, riding in the same boat, passengers on the river of destruction. If we don’t take heed to these few words, we’re going to drown together in the sea of destruction.”
We’re saying: It was no accident that the U.S. investigation which led to Hoover’s indictment began during the 1994 election campaign. In a “Call for Action” urging prisoner/street organization involvement in that campaign, Hoover reminded his readers that: “…Our women and children are suffering greatly at the hands of an oppressive, dominant, racist political system….As proud Black Men and Brown Men, we can no longer afford this forced luxury of non-involvement or non-participation. As men unable to physically claim our rightful place as heads of households, the question remains: How can we contribute within our limited capacities? Man to man i say to you: If We accept a partial responsibility for the plight of our own, then we must take an active role in the game of “Politics”. I challenge each of you to accept the obligation to personally guarantee that each adult member (18 and older) of your family and within your circle of friends, registers to vote and participates in the November elections. (Not less than 5 people.)….”
Not only did candidates supported by Growth and Development nearly unseat incumbents, but significant numbers of people were registered and gotten to the polls; GD’s acted as poll-watchers and drew the wrath of the Chicago police: “When the young people participated in the electoral process (as election judges, poll-watchers, getting people to the polls, etc.), they had more problems from the police on election day than on any day they may have been on a corner selling crack or shooting at someone.” (Interview with Larry Hoover.)
Through the efforts of the 21st Century V.O.T.E. organization, Growth and Development had begun to inspire political activism and self-esteem among sectors of the community that had heretofore seen no future for themselves arising from the electoral process. They had begun to look toward future elections with a new sense of purpose and direction. Growth and Development had led or participated in numerous marches and demonstrations in the few years preceding the U.S. indictments, challenging the policies of the local school board and the state department of education; they had challenged policies of the state department of corrections and the state parole board, particularly with regard to the vicious practice of withholding parole from “C-Number” prisoners; they had challenged the health care practices of county and city-run clinics; they had started mentoring and monitoring programs in several public schools. They had begun the development of an economic base by starting Ghetto Prisoner Clothing — which also became a target of U.S. government and city efforts of disruption (e.g., in Chicago and throughout Illinois, young people wearing the clothing were targets of police harassment; stores selling the clothing were intimidated; shipments of the clothing were sabotaged). The G.D.s had also started Save The Children Promotions which, among other things, had sponsored free Halloween parties for children living in the Cabrini Green, Henry Horner and other housing projects, for three consecutive years, held at the Chicago Amphitheater. It also sponsored rap concerts and other events, which generated funds that went to support other community service projects. In the words of Larry Hoover:
The reason I went from “G.D.” (Gangster Disciple) to “G.D.” (Growth and Development) is so that in the transition I don’t loose 70 percent of the following…. It’s definitely going to be a problem; nothing happens spontaneously — it will take time. Any organization or movement is usually pushed by 10% — when you got a key 10% to start moving in a direction and start making progress, and start getting tangible things that our people can see and feel, then they will feel better about transitions. You got to give them something other than rhetoric. We’re so used to being talked to, and tricked, that you got to show them something….All these things guys can point to and associate with themselves — something positive, something other than selling crack and drive-by shootings.
There is no difference between us because we are in different organizations. We are all black people. When we get in front of the judge, he don’t ask if you are a GD, BD, Vice Lord or El Rukn…He don’t say “Because you’re in one organization, you’ll get 2 years, and the guys in the other organizations will get 10 years.” All of us are black, and we’ll all get 10 years. It shows that we are all one people, and if We don’t come together with each other then we are all going to perish.
What we have to do is get together the conscientious progressive thinkers within these organizations that know that they have to make a change in order to survive… We have to put together a concerted effort by all segments of our community — clergy, business, activists, and progressive thinkers within street organizations. You have to go within these organizations in order to change them… You can’t just write-off a generation….
It is time for black men from all over the country to realize what has happened to us as a people, and that while much of it can be attributed to outside forces we have to begin to take responsibility for ourselves. We are a power — a sleeping giant — and all we have to do is become conscious enough to rise….
We close this introduction as We began it, standing on the words of Fanon: We cannot disassociate ourselves from the fate proposed for our brothers and sisters. We urge all members of the Afrikan community in particular, and other oppressed communities, to also take a stand on these words. Our entire community — but especially the (nationalist) activists of our community — must intervene in the struggles of the “street force” to join the entire people in the war for our independence and progressive national development.
Our Collective also takes a stand upon the New Afrikan CREED, which affirms our belief in the community and in the family… our belief in the community AS a family. The CREED affirms our belief in collective struggle, and in fashioning victory in concert with our brothers and sisters — whom We must love as We love ourselves; with whom We must be patient and uplifting — and work to bring into the community and into the Movement — on pain of disgrace and banishment.
An attack upon “gangs” in our communities by the U.S. is an attack upon us all — and We must intervene. We must protect our brothers and sisters, and We must encourage and assist them in their continued pursuit of new values, new ideas, attitudes and behaviors that are more conducive to our collective survival and development.
* * * * * Part One: Point of Departure
There’s an urgent need for the Afrikan and other oppressed communities to develop new ways of viewing and interacting with so-called “gangs” in our communities. (This should be seen as part of a larger process of changing the perspective We have of ourselves, as We accept that We are a distinct people — an oppressed nation — suffering neo-colonial domination and not a mere “national minority” suffering the racism of a few misguided individuals or institutions.)
Most of our current thinking and behavior toward the young people in our communities has been shaped by the media and other U.S. institutions — all of which are inherently opposed to the real needs and interests of “gangs” and the communities (oppressed nations) of which they are a part. From the 17th to the mid-19th centuries, it was never in the interest of the colonizer (the “slave owner”) to paint a true picture for the colonized people (the “slaves”) which would depict the truthful relationship between them, thus allowing us to begin to see ourselves as a people, held in colonial bondage by a new form of settler-imperialism, and to begin pursuing our independence as a new, Afrikan nation state in the Western hemisphere.
The same holds true in the l990s, as the modern propaganda arm of the “mother country” creates an anti-crime hysteria to mask its program of destabilization and genocide. In creating this hysteria, the U.S. has equated “crime” with “gangs,” and created an image of “gangs” which is meant to inspire fear and hatred within us, so that We will react with hostility and violence toward our own children and other members of our communities (oppressed nations). The U.S. and its media would have us believe that We must rid our communities of “gangs” because, allegedly, they are the causes of the crime and violence in our communities, and the obstacles in the paths of our social, economic and political development, rather than the system of U.S. control under which We live.
Rather than look upon some of our young people as enemies that We should attack and destroy, We must be mindful that members of “gangs” are our children and grandchildren, our brothers, sisters, cousins — members of our families. We must love them unconditionally; We must protect them and work to help them along righteous and productive paths. Above all, We must recognize that negative images of “gangs” are created and used by our real enemies, as they seek to divide and confuse us, to undermine our collective strength, and to divert us from our proper path.
What Is A “Gang”?
The U.S. and its media would have us believe that there is only one way to define “gang” and “gang activity”. They say that a “gang” is a “band of anti-social adolescents” which engages solely in illegal activity.
However, a quick look at Webster’s dictionary tells us that a “gang” is, first and foremost, a group of people…with close social relations…that work together. In essence, a “gang” is actually any group of people which shares close social relations, and works together toward a common goal, i.e., a “gang” has common identity, purpose, and direction. Moreover, a “gang” has actual and potential power — and it’s the actual and potential power of groups within our communities (and thus, the actual and potential power of the community as a whole) which is feared by our common enemy. The U.S. fears us because We have power, and because We can use our existing power to acquire more power — a collective power that, if used in our interests, can’t help but be used to oppose the interests of the U.S.
The U.S. actually aims to define the entire Afrikan community as “criminal,” seen for example when a proposal was put before the Chicago city council, seeking an ordinance which defined a “criminal gang” as a group in which three or more members have been convicted in U.S. courts! Such an ordinance (definition) is clearly intended as a weapon in the war upon the entire Afrikan community — where today, 33% of males between the ages of 18 and 24 have been convicted of “crimes” in U.S. courts! (A similar law was passed in California, which makes it a criminal offence not only to be a member of a so-called “criminal street gang,” but for merely being an associate of such a group!) It’s not hard to see that by such laws, any group of people whose membership includes those with criminal convictions would be considered a “criminal gang” to local, state and federal authorities operating a sinister agenda relative to the Afrikan and other oppressed communities.
Hopefully, We don’t need to point out that there’s really nothing “new” about such laws and their underlying purposes. Such laws — and their purposes — can be traced as far back as the beginning of the colonial relationship between Afrikan people and what would become the U.S. settler-imperialist state, with new forms appearing as changes took place in the forms of our oppression (i.e., laws applied to Afrikans prior to 1865, after 1865, e.g., “runaway slave” laws; “vagrancy” laws; “Black Codes”; “Jim Crow” laws, etc.).
We need to do one of two things with regard to the word “gang”: 1) abandon the word to those who have defined it so that it now has a purely negative connotation; 2) redefine the word — or create a new word or phrase to describe organized youth/groups in oppressed communities.
However, new concepts must be developed to accompany whichever choice We make, and new forms of activity should begin to appear on the basis of the new concepts. The people in the community must begin to work collectively, to transform “gangs” into progressive organizations of Afrikan people, which struggle for freedom and development.
Our problem is not that there are “gangs” in our communities — our problem is that our communities are colonized territories that suffer from arrested development caused by the U.S. settler- imperialist state. Thus, We have no need to attack “gangs”–that is, ideally, We have no need to attack any organized groups of our people that work to free the process of our collective development. What We must do is make sure that all organized groups in our communities have this as their goal–and so long as We deal with members of our communities (i.e., members of our families), the means that We use should be education and persuasion, rather than physical force. However, even if stronger means are called for, they should be ones created and employed by forces within our own communities and not those of U.S. local, state and federal governments. The transformation of “gangs” into progressive groups within our communities is part of the process of acquiring the group power that will enable us to control every aspect of our lives. Our problem is that too many people in our communities — old and young — lack the identity, purpose, and direction required of us if We are to acquire the kind of power that We need to truly free ourselves and begin to pursue the development of our ideal social order.
Why Was The Anti-Crime/Anti-Gang Hysteria Created?
The anti-crime/anti-“gang” hysteria was created for several inter-related reasons, which include, but are not limited to: 1) the U.S. and local governments needed a smokescreen to cover and divert attention from the worsening conditions of ever-larger numbers of people; 2) the U.S. and local governments needed to undermine actual and potential bases of contending power within oppressed communities; 3) the U.S. and local governments needed to test new tactical genocidal initiatives (new forms of colonial violence) in the on-going war between themselves and oppressed peoples inside U.S. borders.
Those who rule the U.S. and who operate its propaganda machine, have a long history and much experience in diverting the attention of those under their control, manipulating them so that their real problems and their underlying causes go unchallenged, while they are led to chase “ghosts” and shadows. The real problem of all peoples under capitalist domination is capitalism itself — which creates the alienation that is driving people into madness, the pursuit of illusions, and the embrace of the commodity fetish.
The “criminalization” of Afrikan youth (e.g., lowering the age at which juveniles can be tried as adults and sentenced to long prison terms — including life without possibility of parole, and the death penalty), is actually about the U.S. trying to protect its power and the privileges of empire. It’s using its legal system as a major weapon in the war to destabilize the entire Afrikan community, while turning the prison system into a new economic appendage (e.g., the privatization of prisons).
Rather than trying to “rid” our communities of “gangs,” We should definitely try to assist them as they themselves engage in a process of transformation into community groups that aim to combat some of our real problems, e.g.: homelessness (the leading cause of which is the inability of poor people to find affordable housing — while housing costs are rising, the incomes of ever-larger numbers of people are declining); hunger; inadequate and decreasing access to health care (43 million people in the U.S. lack health insurance, while hospitals and clinics are closing, and plans are being made to decrease the number of doctors and other medical personnel). Eighty-five million people in the U.S. today live below the poverty line (over twenty-one and one-half million of these are Afrikan people, constituting 34.8% of the Afrikan population), and the U.S. job market is shrinking at the rate of 100,000 per year!
“Youth Organizations” — Afrocentric and Revolutionary
We can take at least one step toward power — one critical step closer to a new sense of collective identity, purpose, and direction — by using the power that We already have, to define ourselves, name ourselves, and speak for ourselves — instead of being defined and spoken for by others.
Let’s begin to transform part of the reality in our communities, by defining so-called “gangs” as organized groups of people in our communities who are essentially misdirected and who need our help getting on the right track. We should stop referring to these organized groups as “gangs,” and instead refer to them as “youth organizations in need of adult supervision” — i.e., supervision and assistance from adults who are themselves Afrocentric and revolutionary (nationalists).
Some of you like to say (usually only when it’s convenient and won’t cost you anything), that “it takes an entire community to raise a child” — well, you are part of the community, and We wanna know what YOU will DO to help raise our children. Rather, the question is: What will YOU DO to help fight the system that turns our children into criminals and victims?
All of the people in our communities must come to share the responsibility for providing a new, broader sense of collective identity, purpose and direction — for our children, and for ourselves. We all suffer the same oppression, at the hands of the same oppressor. We all confront and react to the obstacles to our progress that are created and sustained by the U.S. and its local governments.
We must begin to promote new ideas about how We want to live and the kind of society We want to live in; We must begin to promote new definitions of the causes of our problems (e.g., “racism” or capitalism/colonialism), and the real solutions to our problems (e.g., “empowerment” or genuine independence). We must begin to WORK TOGETHER as a collective, distinct community that is primarily engaged in the struggle for sovereign power.
We must promote ideas which encourage our young people to identify themselves as Afrikans; We must promote among our young people the idea that their purpose is not to merely seek quasi-control over a few city blocks, but to share in our control of entire cities, entire states, and ultimately, to share in the control of our independent nation. We need ideas which promote the notion that the direction We must take is toward national independence.
Let’s “gang-up” against oppression — and struggle for power!
Part Two: Planting Seeds — Building Bases
In the Spike Lee film, MALCOLM X, there’s a scene which depicts a real event: Malcolm, without uttering a word, used his hand to direct a disciplined corps of the F.O.I. outside of a police station, through the streets of New York City, and to the hospital to which an injured member of the Nation of Islam has been taken — at Malcolm’s insistence, and under the threat of the unleashed power represented by Malcolm, the F.O.I., and the community which surrounds them. A police captain says: “That’s too much power for one man to have.” Clearly, that was not an objective observation.
The officer in question would not object to HIS having that much power — nor would he object to any other “one man” having that much power — so long as it was a man with whom he shared ideological, political, and economic interests.
The officer in question was uptight because “that much power” had just been used against him, his fellow officers, and the interests of the state that they had pledged to serve and protect. He had been shocked upon seeing that a KIND of power existed in an oppressed community — power that could force him to refrain from doing that to which he was accustomed, in a community in which he was used to having his way, with no fear of opposition or reprisal.
When the police captain spoke, he was speaking for the federal and local U.S. governments. And, he really meant that: 1) No person in the Afrikan (nor any other oppressed) community should have the power to successfully act in opposition to federal, state, or local governments and their police forces; 2) Organized power should not exist within, nor be exercised by, the Afrikan or any other oppressed community — to realize its interests, in opposition to the interests of the oppressive U.S.
When that police officer witnessed and responded to the power of Malcolm, the F.O.I., and the Afrikan community, he knew it for what it was — he knew, too, the possibilities of that power — AND THAT IS WHAT SHOOK HIS WORLD! Those who rule the U.S. STILL tremble at the thought of “ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE,” and socialist revolution.
We witnessed a similar reaction by police and government officials when youth organizations in L.A. and Chicago announced, on separate occasions, that they were initiating a PEACE that would end violence between “gangs” in parts of both cities.
The police and government officials in both cities responded to this news with anger and alarm. They issued hasty releases to the media, claiming that the peace initiatives were shams, and that the peace wouldn’t last (voicing, of course, their own desires). They made special attempts to discredit the youth organizations in the eyes of the communities to which the organizations belonged, calling into question their motives, their sincerity, and their integrity.
We would think that in light of all of the calls from all quarters for an end to fratricidal violence in Afrikan and other oppressed communities, that the police and other U.S. government agencies would have welcomed news of a peace, and that they would have used their resources to support and sustain it. Instead, they tried to undermine it, going so far as to create situations that they hoped would help to reignite hostilities (e.g., paying or otherwise encouraging renegade elements within the organizations to initiate attacks, or to otherwise engage in activities that were contrary to the rules and aims of the peace initiatives). Why would the U.S. and its agencies want to undermine peace among so-called “gangs”?
Peace, Development, and New Contradictions
POWER: The ability to act in a desired manner, or to produce a desired effect. Legal or official capacity or LEGITIMACY. Possession of control, authority, or influence over others. Specifically, A SOVEREIGN STATE…A CONTROLLING GROUP. Shared meaning element: The ability of a group to perform in a given way, or its capacity for a particular kind of performance.
Peace among youth organizations in our communities means much more than an end to violent conflict — it also means that young people AND ADULTS begin to re-order our priorities, redirect our energies, and assume new responsibilities — for ourselves, our families, our communities — our nation. Peace among youth organizations in oppressed communities CAN lead to the resolution of other problems in our communities which, in their turn, can help to pull the covers off of U.S. socio-economic structural obstacles that block our path to genuine peace and development. Once exposed, these obstacles will present themselves as new problems to be resolved; We will find ourselves confronting long-standing enemies who are far more threatening to us than are some of the young people in our communities.
A. When Youth Organizations End The Violence
The initiation of a peace process by youth organizations immediately brought to light one source of the actual/potential power of the community — power that We can use to solve ALL of our problems, ourselves. Fred Hampton often reminded us that there is “power, wherever there are people,” and people in our communities stopped violence that the U.S. settler-imperialist state couldn’t or wouldn’t stop — even with its greater resources, skills, and its alleged greater will.
When, on one day, it wasn’t safe for children to sit in their windows, or to play outside of their homes — and, on the next day the entire community sat safely in parks and playgrounds that until then had been little more than free-fire zones — the people were relieved and thankful — but more was happening!
The end to the violence in parts of L.A. and Chicago generated new hope, and a new sense of community and COMMUNITY POWER, which had not existed in these areas for some time. While recognizing that this power had manifested itself initially through the actions of groups of organized youth (“gangs”), there was also a gradual realization among people that an even greater power lay dormant within the body of the collective community. As this realization spread, so, too, did the new LEGITIMACY that was bestowed upon the youth organizations by the people in the communities. The existence of youth organizations taking a new course, now provided a vision of new possibilities for comprehensive community development, and the people looked toward the organizations with new expectations.
It is this transfer of LEGITIMACY by the community — from the police and their bosses, to itself and the youth organizations — that so alarmed the U.S. when the peace process was announced. it wasn’t just that the state didn’t want the youth organizations to be seen as “heroes” — the state doesn’t want us to view the organizations as RESPONSIBLE — doesn’t want them to be seen as legitimate actors for positive development…doesn’t want them to become models for the process of transforming negative energy into positive energy. The U.S. doesn’t want dependent people to become self-reliant and begin to determine their own destiny. The U.S. doesn’t want Afrikan and other oppressed people to recognize that We can count on ourselves — and ourselves alone — for solutions to the problems of violence, inadequate health care, inadequate housing, unemployment, etc.
The police, and those that they truly serve and protect, do not want us to respect the actual and potential power of our young people; they do not want us to glimpse, through our youth, the power that lies within each of us: If the Crips and Bloods can bring peace to our communities, and the police can’t or won’t, then why do We need the police? If the Disciples, Vice Lords, Cobras, Latin Kings and other street organizations can serve and protect our children and our elders, and the state demonstrates that it can’t or won’t, then why should We continue to depend upon it and profess loyalty to it? If the power to end violence exists within our own communities, then We should be looking for ways to increase our power, and We should be looking for ways to exercise it.
B. When Youth Organizations Participate In The Development of the Community
Other social, political, and economic implications arise as a result of youth organizations ending fratricidal violence in our communities. For example: The U.S. can’t then use the occurrence of such violence as a justification for increased expenditures on police personnel, equipment, and prison construction; politicians can’t then use the occurrence of such violence as a pretext for additional repressive measures in our communities, and as planks in their campaign platforms.
For these and other reasons, an end to fratricidal violence would mean that We could then push for the attention and funds of the U.S. to be redirected toward the development of our communities — even though this would be a demand that the U.S. can’t fulfill. That is, the U.S. WON’T promote the kind of community development that We want and need, because it CAN’T — the U.S. is not structurally designed to do so! Under the U.S. system of capitalist-imperialism, for example, a significant number of people must ALWAYS be unemployed, uneducated, ill-fed, ill-housed, and in all other respects, oppressed and exploited. Capitalism MEANS development and prosperity for a few, and underdevelopment and poverty for the many. If We put more pressure on the U.S. to house the homeless, to feed the hungry, to hire the jobless (at wages above subsistence level), to educate and to provide adequate health care for ALL of the people — it We pushed for all this, the U.S. would come up short. Contradictions would sharpen. Consciousness would rise and consolidate. People would organize to struggle for their real needs. Lines would be drawn and people would choose sides. Interests would be distinguished and fought for — AND THIS IS WHAT WE WANT TO HAPPEN!
* * * * *
When the youth organizations in L.A. and Chicago announced their plans for peace, they subsequently announced plans for their participation in the development of their communities. The plan drafted by the Crips and Bloods in L.A., proposed activities in five (5) defined areas:
1) Community “face-lift”: to get abandoned buildings, and to encourage the city to purchase and to build community centers upon the property; to repair pavements and sidewalks, plant trees, increase lighting, and clean up vacant lots — all with community involvement and financial assistance from the city.
2) Education: to implement accelerated learning programs; to increase and upgrade school bathrooms and provide new landscapes for schools.
3) Health and Welfare: the construction of three new hospitals, forty health care clinics and dental clinics; the establishment of day care centers. Eliminate welfare, and provide full employment, with the construction of new plants and facilities to service the city — provide welfare only for the invalid and the elderly.
4) Law Enforcement: the creation of “buddy patrols” whereby members of youth organizations are paired with police, trained, and patrol the communities. Those who police the community must live there, and commanders of the districts must be ten-year residents of the communities they serve.
5) Economic Development: loans must be provided to all Afrikan small businesses at four per cent annual interest, and they must be security-free; ninety per cent of the people employed by the businesses in the community must be residents thereof.
The Chicago plan, which focused primarily upon the Cabrini-Green area, was drafted by the King David Black Disciples, the King Cobra Nation, the North Branch Gangster Disciples, and the Magic Insane. It was endorsed by a coalition of other community organizations, religious institutions, political activists, and elected officials. It was presented to Chicago’s mayor, Richard M. Daley, and to the equally infamous housing authority chairman, Vince Lane. This plan called for:
1) The provision of educational, job training, and recreational activities to all youth and adults.
2) U.S. Representative Cardiss Collins to convene a congressional hearing on “what led to the destruction of Cabrini-Green and the entire Near-North Black community.”
3) U.S. Housing and Urban Development regional administrator Gertrude Jordan to “cite Metroplex, the owners of Town and Garden Apartments, for gross violation of their contract with HUD, and to reclaim the property and turn them into scattered site housing” for Cabrini-Green residents.
4) The repair of all vacant Chicago Housing Authority units, and their occupation by homeless families.
5) The turning of the 1117-1119 Cleveland Ave. building into a multi-purpose service center including an alternative high school, drug program, library, and a shelter for youth and adults.
6) The construction of a theatre, bowling alley, and a recreational arcade.
7) The support of existing agencies, churches, and community organizations that already provide services to the area residents.
8) The provision of additional resources and support to all area schools.
9) The establishment of food and clothing cooperatives for the area. The establishment of a 24-hour trouble-shooter hotline.
10) The holding of elections for Local Advisory Councils. The establishment of community-wide Governing Councils that represent all groups in the community. And, the holding of monthly community accountability sessions and status reports.
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Above our discussion of these plans, We tried to emphasize the fact that VIOLENCE IN THE L.A. AND CHICAGO COMMUNITIES IN QUESTION WAS STOPPED BY THE PEOPLE OF THOSE COMMUNITIES, and not by the police or other U.S. government agencies. The people in these communities made a decision to harness and exercise some of their power, and their action resulted in a victory that can have far-reaching possibilities. However, in order to realize any of these possibilities, We must be sure about what We’re fighting for, and We must think through the tactics and strategies that We use in the fight.
We fight so that We can become the masters of our own destinies. We fight so that We can seize the power to freely determine and fully benefit from our productive capacities, and to shape all productive and social relations in our own society. In this fight, We will unavoidably choose methods and employ tactics that will be called “reformist” — but such methods and tactics must be chosen and employed on the basis of a strategy that seeks to fundamentally change the socio-economic order according to which We will live. In other words, ours must be a revolutionary strategy, i.e., a “revolutionary-democratic program,” designed to transfer ALL power to the people. We must remember that the state was alarmed when peace was announced because of its understanding of the POSSIBILITIES of the power of the people: The U.S. was alarmed because it feared that the people would exploit their potential TO GO BEYOND REFORM, and to pursue a revolutionary-democratic agenda. (A “democratic” agenda, in simple terms, is one that seeks to satisfy all of the basic rights and needs of the people. Such an agenda is “revolutionary” for us, because its realization will require the overthrow and junking of the present U.S. socio-economic order, and the construction of a non-capitalist, i.e., a socialist, society.) These points are raised because both of the plans discussed above exhibit a dual character, i.e., potentially harmful (mere reformist) and potentially beneficial (revolutionary-democratic) tendencies.
The primary reason for offering any proposal to local and federal U.S. governments should be that We want to further expose to the people the unwillingness and/or the inability of the U.S. to solve our problems. We need to use all opportunities to show to the people that these governments are not righteous, that they are illegitimate, and that they have no right to rule over us. Every struggle that We engage in must have the dual purpose of undermining U.S. power, and of transferring that power to the people. We must gradually dismantle the oppressive state apparatus, and begin to build a new, people’s state apparatus, creating its embryonic structures in our communities, as We build people’s organizations and institutions that end the violence, house the homeless, feed the hungry, heal the sick, and educate and train our people for their responsibilities in a new society. Each time the people themselves create and develop an idea, build an organization, solve a problem, We show through practice that We can create new structures, and new ways, that satisfy our needs. Otherwise, our needs will go unsatisfied.
We must understand that by appealing to the state with a belief that it will satisfy our needs, We end up hampering the development of the people’s self-confidence, their class and national consciousness, and their power. When We call upon the oppressive state to solve our problems, We promote the idea that it is not necessary to struggle against it and to replace it. This is a principle that should be stressed as often and in as many ways as possible. However, none of this is to say that demands should not be made upon the state: It is only to say that We should have no illusions, and We should allow none to be cast.
Once put under pressure, the state will make cosmetic changes — changes designed to lessen, or to give the impression of lessening, certain contradictions, or the resolution of certain problems. Some of these changes will be made on the state’s own initiative, but most of them will come as a result of the pressure applied by organized groups of the people. No matter what form the inspiration takes, the purpose of reforms by the state is to preserve its rule, to distract and disperse the groups of people that challenge its legitimacy, its power and its privilege.
All demands made upon the state by people’s organizations should be widely exposed, and each step in the process should be analyzed, discussed, summed up, and the lessons shared with the masses. This is part of the process of mass political education, and part of the process of creating responsible organizations and leadership which emerges from within the masses. The people will learn when, why, and how the U.S. is failing them and, at the same time, they will learn that their own organized strength is working to serve their interests. The state will make a concession here or there, and soon the people will realize that the concession meant nothing — that daily struggles and victories over single issues aren’t in themselves decisive. But, more covers will be pulled off, more consciousness will develop; people will see more clearly just how far they will have to go in order to fully realize fundamental change — in themselves, and in the world.
The plans discussed above provide us with good, concrete examples of how the process We’re describing can and should unfold, i.e., make your appeals to the state, but build upon the power of the people — use existing resources to meet existing needs. Find out exactly what the people need, and organize them through the process of serving those needs.
To begin with, We should take special note of the fact that the youth organizations were not alone in the initiation of the peace, the articulation of the plans, and the daily activities in the communities. They were encouraged by…they were joined by other community activists, organizations, and institutions (e.g., churches, businesses, local elected officials, educators, health care providers, etc.). This is an example of unity in the community that should not be wasted.
We see varied groups and strata, representing the entire community, binding together and pursuing particular, shared interests. Rather than MARCH AGAINST the youth, some responsible and conscious adults decided to MARCH WITH youth and other organizations, to challenge the real criminals and to regain control of the colonized territories that are commonly referred to as “inner cities.” Let’s talk less about marching against our children, talk more about marching with them, to take back our communities from the colonial powers, which have arrested our creative and productive capacities. Now, let’s look briefly at other examples in the plans discussed above, to check out some of the elements of a people’s program for self-reliance, self-determination, and independence.
Both plans called upon U.S. federal and local government forces, placing little emphasis upon a reliance upon the people in the communities to address their own needs. For example, the “community face-lift” of the L.A. plan could surely be taken up by the people and institutions in the Afrikan communities, using presently available resources and, within the process of instituting comprehensive development of the community (economic, political, socio-cultural), create the means of acquiring/creating new resources.
We know that We can’t complete the development of the community in one day… We can’t repair or replace all of the abandoned housing overnight — but We can select one site, and use this as a model, a starting point. The entire community can be involved in such a project. Or, several sites can be selected, one in each of the areas where certain organizations predominate, or where certain churches or businesses are located, or which are represented by certain local, state, or federally elected officials. Youth organizations may decide to get into the business of housing construction or rehab…. The point, however, is that if appeals are made to the city, asking it to pave sidewalks or to clean up vacant lots, and the city fails to respond — what happens when the people in the community take on the tasks themselves? THE PEOPLE IN THE COMMUNITY SHOULD TAKE ON THE TASKS THEMSELVES!
What does it really take to repair sidewalks, plant trees, increase lighting, or clean up vacant lots in our communities??!! How much money? How many people? What kinds of examples or models? Again, We don’t have to start big — We can start on one block, learning “how to win judiciously, step by step.” Poor, colonized neighborhoods CAN BE CLEAN neighborhoods — if enough of the people therein assume the responsibility for making it so — and it doesn’t take “hundreds” of people to begin or to complete such projects! We CAN do this; We can take pride in it, and We can use the sense of accomplishment that We will derive from it as a springboard for greater accomplishments.
The people in the communities can harness available resources (financial and human) to do such things as clean up and upgrade the bathrooms in the public schools. Some of the conscious and responsible adults that worked (and continue to work) with the youth organizations in L.A. and Chicago were educators. The coalitions that spring up in each of our neighborhoods should include educators, and they must help us develop OUR OWN “accelerated learning programs.” There’s nothing wrong with making demands upon city governments and upon city, state and federal educational agencies — but our primary objective must be that WE seek control of the institutions that must educate our children — and educate them so that they can become fully developed, and so that they can help us to serve OUR INTERESTS. What can WE do to create programs that combat illiteracy within our communities and nation? What can WE do to provide an adequate number of textbooks (as well as develop new textbooks) for our children? What can WE do to “put a computer in every home” as well as a sufficient number in every school? What can WE do to insure that those who help to develop the minds of our children are themselves psychologically and ideologically “stable”? Who do the schools belong to? Who do the teachers work for? To what community (of interests!) do the teachers belong?
Our communities do not lack experience in providing health care to the people therein, i.e., We know how to assist one another, and We know how to develop health and dental clinics, how to create preventive health programs, how to develop programs to test for sickle cell anemia, etc. We’ve done it before, and We can do it again. There should be no insurmountable problems in the process of our developing our own day care centers, which can not only adequately provide for the needs of our children and the parents who need such service, but can also provide employment for people both young and old!
Moreover, We must begin to challenge the profit motive (in this case, with particular reference to the health care “industry”), and raise the question of society’s responsibility to provide for those who are unable to provide for themselves (as well as the more basic principle of society’s responsibility for ALL of its members) — especially when, under U.S. capitalism, jobs are structurally eliminated, the health care system is consciously dismantled, and insurance companies and not health care providers are calling the shots over the health delivery system.
Those who control the U.S. talk out of both sides of their mouths — from one side they say that they want to put people to work; from the other side they say that they need to keep an unemployment level of at least six per cent in order to insure the stability of U.S. capitalism! The people of our communities will NEVER be “fully employed” so long as U.S. capitalism remains in place. We will not receive adequate health care so long as insurance companies and corporate boards are in control of the health care system and place more value on profits than they do on people.
We don’t need to receive permission from the state in order to hold elections or otherwise select people from within our communities to lead and represent us. The creation of our own governing councils is a needed step toward the creation of leadership which is truly accountable to the people that are served. It is also a prerequisite in the establishment of “dual or contending” bases of power, in the hands of the people, in the fight to create a new social order.
Very important: We don’t and shouldn’t rely upon our enemies for the creation of or assistance in, the development of “food and clothing co-ops”. Such institutions are essential as models or starting points in the process of economic development — especially as We look toward the future, where We will have to feed and clothe ourselves. The hundreds of billions of dollars that We cite as the “wealth” of Afrikans in the U.S. does not actually represent “wealth” — because We don’t control the means of production, nor do We control the means of distribution — We are mere consumers (and this is part of our role as neo-colonial subjects in the 21st century).
The economic development of the Afrikan communities should start with basic education in the science of political economy and a clear understanding as to the commodity that We know as “money”. We must understand that..how…social wealth is actually created by us, by people, through our labor, and not by investments in money market funds or the stock exchange. Fundamentally, social wealth originates through a combination of the labor of people, upon the land that they control, through production and distribution of the material resources that flow from that land (and the sea). Do you get the drift?
C. New Contradictions
As stated above, peace in our communities, and our struggle to develop our communities, will place new demands upon us, and will take us to new levels of confrontation with our real enemies.
We must first wage battles within ourselves — as individuals who want to be better persons, and as communities that want unhindered development. We must develop new values, abandoning individualism, petty envy and jealousy. We must abandon fear of the enemy and fear of change and sacrifice in service to collective interests. We must truly love ourselves, love our sisters and brothers as We love ourselves. We must “believe in the family and the community, and in the community as a family,” and work to make this concept live. We must believe in the community as more important than the individual, because no individual interests can be realized apart from realization of the interests of the community. Through all this, and more, new contradictions will arise — most notably those which will stand us in opposition to the U.S.
The U.S. is an oppressive, exploitative state. It seems all-powerful because We do not have the kind of power that We need; the power that We do have is not yet fully exercised in the proper manner, toward the proper ends. The more We exercise our power, the more antagonistic our relationship to the U.S. will become. This antagonism is both part and consequence of our struggle to become more socially responsible, more politically conscious and active, more economically powerful and self-sufficient.
ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE THAT DON’T FEAR FREEDOM!
Haki Kweli Shakur August Third Collective Communist Org NAPLA NAIM
RBG Street Scholar