Saturday, November 07, 2009

"Black Is Back" Rally in Washington, D.C. Today

Black is Back

By Norman (Otis) Richmond

The year is 1981 and several Torontonians ventured to Buffalo, N.Y. to hear Omali Yeshitela, the Chairman of the African Peoples Socialist Party speak at the Harambee Book Store. The Harambee Book Store was like many African centered bookstores – a family affair.

The Aquarian Spiritual Center in South Central, Los Angeles, was the
spot for knowledge, wisdom and understanding. This bookstore was run by Bernice and Alfred Ligon. In Toronto, Gwen and Leonard Johnston did the same with Third World Books & Crafts. In Buffalo the African community was serviced by Harambee which was run by Sharon and Kenneth Holley.

Dionne Brand, Mitchell Holder and I were among the group who went to check the Chairman out. Yeshitela did not disappoint those of us who took the journey. He had just returned from Nicaragua and was fired up by the Sandinistas who seized state power in 1979.

While he supported the revolution he was concerned about the plight of the African-Nicaraguans on the Atlantic coast. Africans who are English speakers from Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and other parts of the Caribbean live on the Atlantic coast.

After the lecture those of us from Toronto went to the Holley’s home.
We engaged in an all night debate and discussion about Africa and
Africans at home and aboard. The issues discussed then are still being debated and discussed today.

Yeshitela recently spoke in Toronto. The fiery Yeshitela was born in St. Petersburg, Fla.and is the founder of the Uhuru Movement. He is now the chair of the African Socialist International (ASI) and the African Peoples Socialist Party. He spoke on “Racism & National
Consciousness ’09 / Land and Freedom The 8th Annual New College Conference on Racism & National Consciousness “Land and Freedom”, to several hundred people and was well received.

The Chairman made a second Toronto appearance. He delivered
a keynote speech “Africans Unite-Build the African Socialist
at Downsview Branch Public Library . Chioma Oruh also presented a
keynote address on Africom. She is the ASI North American – Outreach Coordinator. Oruh and Yeshitela spoke about the newly formed Black is Back Coalition.

He is also one of the founding members of the Black is Back Coalition. Black is Back Coalition is a newly-formed Black coalition which has announced a Rally and March on the White House to take place November 7, 2009 beginning in Washington, D.C.’s historic Malcolm X Park.

The Rally and March are to protest the expanding U.S. wars and other
policy initiatives that unfairly target African and other oppressed people around the world. Known as the Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations, the coalition formed on September 12, 2009 during a meeting in Washington, D.C. of more than fifteen activists from various Black organizations, institutions and communities.

The Black is Back Coalition aims to draw upon the support of many of the leading anti-imperialist organizations, journalists, organizers,
artists and scholars of the African world. In this age of Obama, the
rally and march on November 7, 2009 aims to bring back the tradition
of resistance historically associated with Black communities around
the world.

Comprised of seasoned veterans of Black political struggle,
including members of the African People’s Socialist Party, the NAACP, MOVE, the Green Party, Black Agenda Report and many other grassroots organizations and efforts, this coalition is perfectly situated to do just that.

Besides Yeshitela the Black is Back campaign has been endorsed by Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente who ran for president and vice president respectively of the Green Party in the 2008 election, Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report, Stic Man, Dead Prez M-1, Dead Prez, Pam Africa, Free Mumia Campaign, and Mumia Abu-Jamal.

There is a Canadian connection. Raheal Rayza, University of Toronto
Outreach Coordinator, Chakanda Gondwe, Toronto Community Outreach Coordinator and I are part of this process.

Brand, who made the trek to the birth place of former Torontonian Rick James, went to work in Grenada soon after the Buffalo encounter. Brand has recently been a news maker. Brand, a Governor General's Award-winning writer, has been named Toronto's poet laureate.

Toronto city council appointed the Trinidad and Tobago-born poet and novelist, now based in Toronto, to the post recently. The position was established in 2001 and has been held by Dennis Lee and Pier Giorgio di Ciccio.

"I have a great passion for this city — in its multiplicity it is
constantly rich and surprising," she said in a statement.

While Brand’s prize was celebrated by Toronto’s African community,
women and progressives of all nationalities she was viciously attacked by the Fred Flintstone types at the National Post. The article
mentioned the fact that Amiri Baraka was made the poet laureate
for the state of New Jersey and the state attempted to stripe him
because of a poem he wrote. When that proved legally impossible, the state changed its laws and the governor eventually did away with the laureateship altogether.

Marni Soupcoff of the National Post said with venom, “Here’s one way to look at it. Dionne Brand will now be $30,000 richer for serving as Toronto’s poet laureate for three years. Brand has nailed the job by focusing on predictable lefty favourite themes in her work: issues of social justice, race and — that old classic — white male domination.

Oh, and she’s a Marxist feminist, as well. That should go without
saying. Really, Brand might as well be the poster child for the
politically correct academic (she’s a professor at the University of
Guelph and held a chair in women’s studies at Simon Fraser
University). Whatever complaint you may have against “the man,” Brand has probably already made it... several times.”

The Barbados-born Holder came back and helped found the Committee Against Racism Within the Media (CARM). On the morning of July 31, 1982, Phil McKellar aka That Feller McKellar was hosting his regular music show on CKFM.

McKellar, a 34-year broadcast veteran, had for years been host of the
Sunday late-night "All That Jazz" program for CKFM.

This was a popular show for which McKellar had won much praise from African Canadian musicians and the African Canadian community.

He was viewed as a liberal until this time. At approximately 8:10 A.M. on July 31, 1982, McKellar was overheard on air to refer to the upcoming Caribana parade as "four million niggers jumping up and down." The microphone was on and his remarks - not intended for public consumption - went out on the air. Because of the campaign launched by CARM, CKFM permanently removed McKellar as host of "All That Jazz", though he did retain his other hosting duties at the station. He died on January 26, 1983.

As El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X) taught us, “History is best
qualified to reward our research.”

Norman Richmond can be contacted

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