For Justice, We Must Move Beyond ‘Token’ Unity

The Black Waxx Family, members of Artists and Activists United for Peace are proud proud. On September 2nd, over two thousand people marched through the streets of Harlem in a demonstration of Black power and unity.

Included in the march were Ajamu Sankofa, Chuck D., Attorney Chris Dunn, Attorney Malik Shabazz and The New Black Panther Party, Brenda Stokley, Donatien, Donna Lamb, John Penely, Kahlil Johnson, Nana Soul, Nellie Hester Bailey, Paul Washington, Attorney Ron Kuby, Attorney Stanley Cohen, Betty Davis, Bob Law, Councilman Charles Barron, Councilman Robert Jackson, Elombe Braith, Kyle Jason, Larry Holmes, Lynne Stewart, Menes, Milton Allimadi, Partha Banerjee, Samia Halaby and Viola Plummer just to name a few. After many months of planning, our efforts culminated in a procession that embodied both peace and action. Although it saddens us that the Bush administration was not listening to our messages of empowerment, we were buoyed by the spirit of support that we received from the Harlem community as we walked through.

Artists and Activists United for Peace accomplished in one day what other organizations have failed to in past times. When was the last time you saw the Black Panther Party march side by side with members of United for Peace and Justice and the December 12th Movement with the Immigrant Solidarity Network?

It is unfortunate that a celebration of such unity and the ability of grass roots people’s from all organizations to put aside their political and ideological differences went largely unnoticed in the press and was overshadowed by the coverage of George Bush’s hate-filled, lackluster and partisan speech, but then again, the grassroots movement has never relied much on media to put the message of the people out.

Another huge success for AAUP was the fact that no one was arrested. We understand the irony of needing a permit to protest a dictatorship in sheep’s clothing, but still, our march went off without a hitch.

Our rally and march was a good response to all the previous protests that went on during RNC week; almost all of them were whitewashed. The dynamic of a racial bias even in protest among groups with similar aims is a dangerous one, one that can be used against a people’s movement. Although groups should stay true to their original agendas, it does not do to have tunnel vision. One group will not have all the answers, nor will it save the universe. Ego must be of lower status of an organizations list of priorities, even an individual’s, if real change is to be made. I heard one group chanting “Black, Latin, Asian, white, to beat the fascists we must unite�. I thought it odd that the group chanting this was made up largely of…well, whites.

The way to bridging cultural and ethnic gaps is not through a chant. Especially when such chants are taking place in a demonstration near Herald Square, Manhattan. You really want to send a message to poor people of color; you need to try chanting that in the projects, in the ghettoes of this city. In addition, you need to try chanting that when there’s no RNC or a need to bring attention to your own political agenda.

As our slogan says, all eyes are on Iraq, but we’re still under attack. Well, where are the chanters when young Black men languish in jail? When our children are forced to endure mandatory testing for which an inadequate educational system leaves them ill prepared by design? When we have no jobs, no options and no way out? When we see mandatory slave labor being forced on people in public housing in subtle increments? The real fascism lies in liberal whites being unable to see the racism inherent in their polarized political and social campaigns. Such naïveté and elitism is dangerous to any movement.

I hear comments about how we’re all in the same boat because we’re poor. People who think that the people’s plight is solely one of class are misguided and uninformed. And some of them are defensive. White privilege is something that needs to be addressed in a real, non-defensive way by white people. Think of it in these terms: if you are white and liberal, even a radical, you can decide one day to put on a suit and tie, and you will blend in. Yours is a choice, not a response necessary for the survival of your race. And in this ability to choose, lies the inherent racism that is invoked when white people protest “at� people of color as opposed to “with� them.

Some protesters may claim that we are also all in the same boat because some of them were arrested at protests – for non-permitted protests mind you. Believe me, I am of the mind that one should be able to protest without a permit and without fear of being knocked in the head by cops. But what white people need to understand is that they are arrested when they put themselves out there on display. A Black man can be walking into his apartment, holding his wallet and be shot 41 times. Does this set the precedent to say that walking in your neighborhood can be seen as a sign of criminal intent? There is a difference between an entire community being at risk because it is of a certain race and cultural background and a protester who has something to prove, and wants to get arrested to show how much of a revolutionary they are.

If they really want to be revolutionary, white folks ought to go talk to some of their friends and family (the white ones) about the racism inherent in this entire system, including liberal white protest and grassroots organizations. For whites, that’s about as radical as you can get. It’s hard to face but it’s true: John Brown is a tough act to follow.

Revolution…then peace,


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