Community Movement Builders (Grassroots Thinking, January 8, 2024)
On March 31st, 1968, hundreds of Black leaders from all over ameriKKKa came together for a historic task. They affirmed the fact that Afrikan people in ameriKKKa constitute an oppressed nation and officially issued a declaration of independence for our nation before the world. Following this, these leaders founded the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika, which was intended to be a temporary governing body representing our nation. Nation Day is the celebration of the New Afrikan Declaration of Independence and the founding of the Provisional Government, which is currently hosted annually by said government. From March 31st to April 2nd 2023, Community Movement Builders, a national mass-based organization fighting for self determination for Black / New Afrikan people, sent a delegation to Charleston, South Carolina for the 55th celebration of New Afrikan nation day. I was one of the people who had the privilege to be able to go on this delegation. Below are some notes on the trip, and some thoughts from my personal perspective on what transpired during it.
Nation Day began with a tour of the city of Charleston, but most of the CMB delegation was not able to make it to this part. We were, however, able to make it to the screening of the Battle of Algiers that occurred right after that. For those who have not seen the film, the Battle of Algiers is a film that focuses on the titular battle of the Algerian people against French colonialism, which constituted one of the urban aspects of the people’s war for the national liberation of Algeria. It was explained to us that this film was shown because the Algerian national liberation struggle has direct parallels with the New Afrikan national liberation struggle. The film depicts in depth the trials and tribulations that an oppressed nation must go through in order to achieve liberation. This includes the constant asymmetrical warfare waged by the national liberation front against the colonialists, the violent and horrific state repression of liberation forces by the colonial regime, including torture, and the complete denial of the nationhood of the colonized people by the colonizers. After the screening of the film, we heard a lot from a movement elder by the name of Baba Kokayi, an elder who has been heavily involved in defending New Afrikan people against the chemical warfare through use of drugs that has been employed against our people as a means of genocide. He was a participant in the acupuncture treatment activities that went down at the Lincoln Detox Center, which was established by revolutionary organizations after they took over a hospital to treat drug addiction. It is also important to note that Baba Kokayi was one of the people trained in his health work practices under the late People’s Doctor Mutulu Shakur. Baba Kokayi spoke of the political connections between the New Afrikan national liberation struggle and the Algerian national liberation struggle. This includes the establishment of the international segment of the Black Panther Party in Algeria, as well as the fact that many Black Panthers went there in order to continue fighting for liberation on the international terrain. Overall, it’s clear that the Algerian revolution against French colonialism was and continues to be an inspiration to New Afrikan revolutionaries.
Survival was a main topic of the discussion following the film screening. This involved discussion surrounding how the Black Panthers survived being attacked by the pigs. One survival tactic used by the Party was creating fortifications made with sandbags or cinder blocks to block incoming bullets from the enemy in situations in which the pigs shot up Panther offices. During this part of the discussion, Baba Kokayi brought up the reality of trauma in struggle. The elder posed the important question of how people even dealt with some of the horrific things that they had to endure in the course of the Algerian People’s War. They drew the connection between that kind of trauma and the trauma they and many other New Afrikan people endured in the course of state repression of the various detachments of our national liberation struggle. They emphasized the importance of caring for one another as a way of dealing with this trauma. Baba Kokayi literally hugged Baba Bilal Sunni-Ali (another elder who was a former Black Panther) and said this is what they do to deal with the trauma. That and calling each other, being there for each other, and talking to each other to deal with the pain. This is necessary. We as a people have to deal with a lot as the result of the conditions we collectively endure, but because we have the collective, we luckily don’t have to deal with any of this alone.
The elders also discussed certain particularities of the Black Panther Party. One of these was the fact that some Panthers were people who had received military training fighting in imperialist wars, and ended up using those military skills in order to fight imperialism upon their return to ameriKKKa. We were also told that the Panthers were based in the youth to such a degree, that older members of the Panthers were sometimes considered suspect, because older membership was just that unusual.
Baba Kokayi also described the importance of study to everyone there. The movie was one example of study material that he recommended that we watch and rewatch, but he also emphasized the importance of reading books. The elder suggested reading Nkrumah and the Little Red Book (Quotations From Chairman Mao Zedong). He made it clear that it’s important to read this revolutionary literature and to continue to undergo the process of political education in order to gain the knowledge necessary to liberate our nation. The mention of the Little Red Book is significant because it shows the continued influence and relevance of Mao’s revolutionary theory to the New Afrikan national liberation struggle. This wouldn’t be the last time Mao or the Chinese revolution would be mentioned during the events of Nation Day either. For national liberation struggles around the world, including the New Afrikan national liberation struggle, the theory of Mao continues to be an indispensable tool.
During the event, various formations set up tables for the sale of literature and other goods related to the struggle in order to raise money. Some of the literature that was being sold at the event included the volumes of the New Afrikan communist theoretical journal Vita Wa Watu (People’s War), revolutionary feminist works like Night Vision and Jailbreak out of History, and even texts containing Maoist works like People’s War… Women’s War? which contains two essays by Comrade Parvati of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). (Although it should be noted that these works of Parvati came from before the temporary defeat of the Nepalese revolution along with the rightward turn of that party and Parvati herself. Take that as you will.) Some difficult to find revolutionary literature like We Will Return in the Whirlwind by the former Revolutionary Action Movement cadre Muhammad Ahmad was available there as well. The abundance of revolutionary literature present at the event was one really great aspect of Nation Day. The theoretical works that were being made available at the event were must-reads for anyone who wishes to further advance the national liberation struggle.
Later during the event, an as of yet unreleased documentary called Seedz of Revolution was shown. The documentary described what it was like to grow up in a household that was associated with the New Afrikan Independence Movement. The folks interviewed in the documentary described growing up around all sorts of older people that just seemed like family and nothing more, only to find out later that they were actually major historical figures who participated in various historically significant struggles and movements. They described being involved in New Afrikan camps and scout organizations designed to promote revolutionary nationalist consciousness, and how these institutions taught them to love themselves. They also explained that part of growing up in the New Afrikan Independence Movement was growing up under surveillance by the fascistic state. Another part of it was growing up with parents or other family members in prison for political reasons. According to the documentary, growing up in the New Afrikan Independence Movement was characterized by strong political consciousness, Afrikan cultural immersion, and collective values on the one hand, but also the realities of state repression and surveillance on the other hand. The documentary was a beautiful look into what it looks like to grow up immersed in this kind of movement.
On Day 2 of the event, the president of the Provisional Government, Saah Maat, gave her presidential address. She spoke of how the New Afrikan nation was formed from many different Afrikan ethnic groups through the process of transport to this continent in the slave trade, and thus uniquely carries the legacy and characteristics of those many groups. She emphasized the need for urgency in the New Afrikan liberation struggle. She said that while the line “this is a protracted struggle” is used often, it’s important not to let that become an excuse for not building with urgency. She also spoke of the necessity of cadre development in the New Afrikan Independence Movement and developing more working infrastructure to support the movement. She went on to speak of the importance of objectivity and the need for a scientific approach to the work, and rightly explained that participants in the New Afrikan Independence Movement are social scientists. In addition to all this she talked about the necessity of the variety of units of the New Afrikan Independence Movement to conduct trainings to develop the skills needed for the struggle, and the need for the sharing of working strategies between units. The main characteristic of president Maat’s speech was a call for greater unity and an intensification of nation building efforts so that we can move closer to our ultimate goal in good time. Overall, it was a very necessary call to action.
Day 2 of the event also featured talks from representatives of various Pan-Afrikan and New Afrikan formations involved in the struggle. This included Salifu of the All-Afrikan People’s Revolutionary Party (AAPRP), who spoke on imperialist aggressions against Cuba and Nicaragua, and new developments in Mali and Burkina Faso in ousting French imperialism. We also heard from Baba Senghor Baye of the United Negro Improvement Association and Afrikan Communities League (UNIA-ACL) over zoom as they were currently stationed in Afrika for their work. Baye heavily emphasized the need for Pan-Afrikan unity and spoke of the need for various Afrikan formations to unite for a common struggle against the oppression of Afrikan people. Marilyn Hemmingway of the Gullah-Geechee Chamber of Commerce also spoke during this part of the event. She put heavy emphasis on the environmentalist work that she does with the Gullah-Geechee community. Ultimately, the main takeaway from this part of the event was that there is a clear demand for a united front between various Afrikan / New Afrikan formations. There are a lot of people in various different formations doing work to serve Afrikan people, but principled unity is key if victory is to be achieved.
Jalil Muntaqim, who was a former Black Panther Party member, Black Liberation Army soldier, and a recently released political prisoner who remains involved in the national liberation struggle today, called in during the event and talked about the importance of developing ideological clarity, emphasized the importance of revolutionary nationalism, and rightly called for resistance to assimilation. He called for the construction of decolonization programs, which are programs geared toward serving the people as an integral part of the anti-colonial revolution. He also called for bringing as many people as possible into the national liberation struggle. The positions put forth by comrade Muntaqim during this segment of the event were on point. We must continue to raise the banner of revolutionary nationalism and further the national liberation struggle through concrete programs that advance that struggle and by developing ever higher levels of ideological clarity. These things will be key to our ultimate victory.
One part of the event was dedicated to the structure and internal processes of the PGRNA. Baba Lukata from Medgar-Eversville (the provisional government’s name for Jackson, Mississippi), spoke on the Code of Umoja, which is essentially the constitution of the PGRNA. He went on to describe the Provisional Government’s election process. Basically the PGRNA has different districts that have to be certified, and then people in them can get a petition signed so that they can be nominated to run for office in a particular district. This section of the event illuminated the internal workings of the Provisional Government in its endeavors to function as a governmental body for the New Afrikan nation.
After this, there was a panel geared toward addressing the question of reparations. There were many representatives from N’COBRA, or the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America facilitating this discussion. One thing mentioned by N’COBRA representatives during the panel was the fact that they managed to purchase a retreat center for use by New Afrikan people. During this part of the event, there was serious debate and ideological struggle between both the panelists and the audience. The biggest points of contention during this debate were whether or not the goal should be struggling for reparations for Afrikan people descended from enslaved people brought to ameriKKKa specifically, or whether they should be for all Afrikans, as well as the question of what form reparations should take, as they could come in the form of money or land, and could be distributed to individuals or given to the entire nation. A few CMB comrades rightly raised the question of whether ameriKKKa would ever give reparations to New Afrikan people, considering the fact that it is a greedy profit driven White supremacist empire. This is something that all New Afrikans should consider when thinking about reparations. Imperialism never gives anything to anyone unless it benefits imperialism. What we really need as a nation of people can never be given to us by the imperialists. It must be taken through force.
During this panel representatives from the People’s Party for Independence, a New Afrikan organization based in Columbus, Georgia spoke about some of the work that they are doing. They explained that the PPI operates in accordance with 5 principles represented by the acronym DEEP-C. DEEP-C stands for defense, education, economics, politics and culture. A lot of work of the PPI revolves around ending the dependency of our communities on settlers by building New Afrikan institutions. For example, the PPI collectively put money together to purchase a community center called the Embassy for use in their political activities.The community center helps them integrate into the community and establish a presence there by ensuring that they’re there daily. The PPI representative also spoke of the unity of theory and practice and the need to get everybody on the same page, instead of everyone working in silos and studying different theories. I agree with this in principle, but I think the only way to achieve that goal is the establishment of the hegemony of a revolutionary theory that will provide us the tools to correctly analyze our conditions and organize our people for revolution against ameriKKKan settler-colonialism and capitalism-imperialism. More on this later.
Later in the event, Baba Lukata spoke about land acquisition, and spoke of acquiring at least one property in the national territory. The goal of this is to provide means of embedding participants in the New Afrikan Independence Movement in the national territory so that they can carry out political work there. They can move into the aforementioned property while they search for a place to stay within the national territory. The concept of repatriation of New Afrikan people to the national territory in the South was one that was mentioned many times during Nation Day. New Afrikan people all over the country are essentially refugees that were forced out of the South through brutal White supremacist, settler-colonial terrorism that led to the great migration. Now New Afrikan people are moving back to the South in a sort of reverse migration trend. While the struggle for New Afrikan national liberation should be carried out wherever New Afrikans are, if our people become even more concentrated in the South it would create additional opportunities for us to put our collective political power into action.
Day 2 of New Afrikan nation day ended with ngoma festivities. Ngoma celebrations are basically traditional Afrikan celebrations involving the playing of drums. The word ngoma means drum. During this part of the event everyone got together for a filling meal, listened to drums, and watched performers engage in traditional Afrikan dance. After this, one of the drummers spoke on how important drums are to Afrikan history and culture. He explained that drumming was literally banned on plantations because the slave owners realized our ancestors were using them to communicate with one another. This shows how important such music is to our national culture and to our struggle. For us, the drums were a tool of resistance. After this everyone came out into a more open area in order to dance and listen to the event DJ.
Most of the CMB delegation did not attend Day 3 of Nation Day, but instead went to see various historically significant sights in Charleston that we didn’t get to see earlier because of missing the tour. We first went to see the statue of Denmark Vesey, a New Afrikan man who attempted to launch a slave rebellion to liberate New Afrikans from bondage before escaping to Haiti, but was martyred because he was sold out by a snitch. One CMB comrade laid flowers at the feet of Denmark Vesey’s statue in order to honor this martyr who gave his life for a chance at the liberation of the New Afrikan people. The members of the CMB delegation also gathered in front of the statue and unfurled the New Afrikan banner in front of it and took a photo.
After this we went to the AME church, which was Denmark Vesey’s church. This church was also significant because it was the site of the sick fascist Dylan Roof’s massacre of New Afrikan people which occurred some years ago. We were able to speak with a local whose family went to the church and who lost loved ones in the massacre. He told us that Dylan Roof infiltrated the church by attending it frequently, and receiving care from the New Afrikan church members who welcomed and accepted him, gave him a place to stay, gave him food to eat and overall showed him love. Then one day, he came in, and massacred the very people who had shown him so much love. He even left a little girl alive to witness the carnage he caused, ending with murdering her mother right before her eyes. The local pointed out that Dylan Roof was arrested without incident with all his guns still on him. This shows the hypocrisy of the pigs, who will often murder unarmed New Afrikan people and claim that “their safety was threatened”. The reality is that Dylan Roof was arrested without incident because the pigs are on the same side as him. According to the local, after Dylan Roof was arrested, the church continued to receive threats of further violence against the congregation from an unknown source. This suggests that Dylan Roof was not acting alone, but possibly on the behalf of some kind of underground White Supremacist organization. Because of the massacre and the continuous threats against the church, the church’s congregation has been decreasing. This part of our conversation with the local revealed the brutal reality of White supremacist terrorism against New Afrikan people in ameriKKKa today. We need to build up the capacity to defend our people against this kind of terrorism, and to ruthlessly retaliate against the perpetrators.
The local also told us that Charleston has experienced extremely severe gentrification. New Afrikan people are being pushed out of the city, and the city went from having a majority New Afrikan population to having a minority New Afrikan population because of this. Charleston, the port city through which the ancestors of many New Afrikan people came through on slave ships after being kidnapped from Afrika, has basically become a tourist trap. All sorts of expensive restaurants and venues geared toward settler yuppies and tourists have popped up walking distance away from the docks where our enslaved ancestors were dragged ashore in chains to be sold. Plantation tours were being sold right there too, so that bourgeois settlers could capitalize on the genocidal history of the city. The CMB delegation went to look at the waters on which the slave ships arrived with our captured ancestors and reflect on what we had learned. One comrade fittingly mentioned that Du Bois once wrote that the enslaved people who came on those ships did not fear drowning rather than living their life in bondage, for they believed that if they drowned at least they would wake up in Afrika.
I’d be remiss if I spoke of the events that occurred during New Afrikan Nation Day without leaving room for a critical assessment of the event and how it relates to the general struggle for the liberation of the New Afrikan nation. It was great that this event allowed for the congregation of various New Afrikan liberation organizations and Pan-Afrikanist organizations in one place for the discussion of a variety of subjects relevant to the liberation struggle of our people, and to make genuine efforts to build greater unity within our movement. It was also good to see that the importance of revolutionary concepts and theory still prevails in the PG-RNA as well as in the attendees of the event, including the aforementioned emphasis on studying texts like the Little Red Book, references to the protracted nature of our liberation struggle, acknowledgement of the need for a scientific approach to the struggle, the practice of criticism and self criticism and much more. It was good to see that revolutionary elders who literally made history in the intense struggles of the 20th century, and endured so much repression as well, are still out there fighting for the liberation of our people with the PG-RNA and other formations. It was good to see various formations continuing to push for the liberation of captured New Afrikan Prisoners of War who haven’t gotten out yet like Imam Jamil Al Amin. It was also good to see so many different New Afrikan formations and individuals coming together to discuss the politics, strategy and tactics of our national liberation struggle. On the other hand, in my opinion there were shortcomings apparent during the event as well, which I will mention briefly in the spirit of love, honesty, and respect for all those involved in the national liberation struggle. One of them was the need for further clarity on the question of gender in the context of the New Afrikan national liberation movement. During the event there were definitely moments in which women both in facilitation roles and in attendance expressed discomfort at their treatment at the hands of some of the men both in words and in deeds. This included, but was not limited to, the practice of talking over women and unsolicited commentary and speculation on the reproductive health of women in attendance. In addition to that, there was a speech given that mentioned “gender confusion” in reference to trans people that also betrayed a lack of line clarity on the question of gender and gender oppression. There was also a need for further line clarity on the fundamental contradiction of class in the context of the New Afrikan national liberation struggle. For example, the idea that we cannot afford class struggle among ourselves as New Afrikans was floated during the event. In addition to this, another line that looked at some New Afrikans entering the bourgeois state apparatus and functioning within it as being a positive thing was also present during the event. From concrete experience organizing in Atlanta it is clear that there are class contradictions among New Afrikans and that class struggle between New Afrikans is necessary. Representatives of the bourgeoisie such as Andre Dickens and Antonio Lewis consistently support reactionary policies that will lead to repression and attacks on the majority of New Afrikan people such as Cop City. This can only be because their concrete class interests differ from those of the majority of New Afrikans. In the final analysis, they see a bag in collaboration with the police, the capitalists, and the settler-colonial system as a whole, so they work against their own people. The state of Atlanta today is proof that we need to struggle against New Afrikan representatives of the bourgeoisie and proof that New Afrikans working within the state are not our friends or brothers. As I field these criticisms I want to make absolutely clear the fact that there was not just one line in the PG-RNA or among Nation Day attendees, but rather a variety of different perspectives with the point of unity being fighting for the liberation of our oppressed nation. For example, even though the aforementioned statement on “gender confusion” was given during the event, comrades from the Rebuild Collective, who are New Afrikan Communists, spoke positively of transgender New Afrikans and expressed eagerness to be allies of this sector of the masses of our people. In addition to this, I was told later by a comrade that an elder gave a speech to folks attending the nation day event that emphasized the fact that it is necessary to accept all oppressed New Afrikan people including LGBT+ New Afrikan people. While there were situations in which some of the men present at the event treated the women in a patriarchal manner, there were also instances in which New Afrikan women stood up and spoke against this. On top of that, the provisional government itself has lots of women leaders, including the aforementioned president herself, Sah Maat. As far as class contradictions are concerned, the Rebuild Collective, as well as some other organizations present, have certainly fielded sharper lines on this that emphasize the need for a class perspective. There are contradictions in everything, contradictions made apparent in Nation Day and contradictions in the PG-RNA. The world and society are rife with contradictions, as this is a fundamental law of reality, so we should expect that to be the case in formations such as these. The only way to address and overcome these contradictions is through social practice and line struggle. I recommend that more people come out to the next New Afrikan nation day which will be hosted here in Georgia in order to learn about the Provisional Government themselves and participate in discussions and struggles that are going on between New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalists as part of contributing to this process.
I highly respect the foundational and ongoing work of the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika, and I think it is a good thing that there is a Provisional Government for the New Afrikan nation. The formation of provisional governments to represent oppressed nations of peoples in need of a revolutionary struggle for national liberation is far from unprecedented in the revolutionary movements of the world. For example, revolutionaries formed a provisional government in South Vietnam when it was under occupation by an imperialist backed puppet regime. This apparatus was an important instrument in liberating the southern half of Vietnam from the control of the imperialists. However, in addition to that provisional government, South Vietnam also had a party, the People’s Revolutionary Party, a people’s army, the Liberation Army of South Vietnam, and the United Front, which was the National Liberation Front. In my opinion, in order for our people to be free, the New Afrikan national liberation struggle needs to be led by an ideologically coherent, well-disciplined, politico-military apparatus of professional revolutionaries. In addition to this, we need a People’s Army capable of fighting against ameriKKKan settler-colonialism, capitalism, and White supremacy, and finally a broad and layered united front capable of winning over New Afrikan workers, tenants, lumpen, urban and rural poor people, as well as other strata of the New Afrikan popular masses and uniting them into a fighting force capable of carrying out the national liberation struggle with the aim of establishing a socialist New Afrika on this continent. By this I mean that we need a revolutionary party, army, and united front guided by scientific, materialist, and revolutionary theory. In my personal opinion, this means a party of a new type guided by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism creatively applied to the concrete conditions of the New Afrikan nation, Pan-Afrikanism, and New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalism as an expression of those principles and as applied internationalism. This is because the national liberation struggle ultimately needs to be led by a force that not only thoroughly understands the need for revolutionary violence and socialism, but one that also understands the dangers of revisionism and the capitalist road, which is a threat prior to, and even after the initial victory of a revolution. As the third stage of scientific socialism developed in the course of people’s wars waged in the oppressed nations in the era after the world has seen the restoration of capitalism in formerly socialist countries, Maoism contains within it a continued demand for revolutionary struggle and a rejection of the capitalist road in the liberation struggle. We need a party capable of rectifying itself when it goes astray, as many parties of this sort have done in the Global South, and one capable of carrying out continuous revolution even after the achievement of national liberation and socialism, to prevent New Afrikans from becoming a dependent people again due to a triumph of sellout capitalist roaders. Such a party cannot just be a copy paste job, it must not simply transplant the experiences of other revolutions onto our own, but it must instead reflect the realities we face as New Afrikans in ameriKKKa and arise from our national liberation struggle and our communist tradition. The next steps for those dedicated to bringing the liberation of our people to fruition need to consist of rigorous mass work, constructing those instruments of struggle which we will need to defeat the enemy, developing cadres and cells toward that end, and preparing for people’s war without terms. All of this must be done in close concert with the masses of our people. I recognize that there have been efforts to build along these lines in the past with varying degrees of success, and that there are ongoing efforts to build along these lines with varying degrees of success. I think that continuing with this path is a necessary task for New Afrikan revolutionaries. The precise way in which such a movement can be built is something that must be learned through practice and further investigation, for to investigate a problem is to solve it. We must build the liberation struggle through concrete mass work and action, overcome the hurdles facing us, remove old baggage, forge new bonds, and move the struggle to free the land to ever greater heights. The reality of the conditions that we face as a people will continue to necessitate revolutionary struggle for as long as they exist, and so as long as we remain oppressed we must continue working toward our ultimate victory. There is a constant war against our people, so there must be similarly constant resistance to this. The road to revolution is long and winding, but we must remain assured that however long it takes, no matter the ups and downs, no matter the hurdles we must overcome, we will win the war! Our future as a people depends on it.