Category Archives: Your Voice

Mural at J-N-J

New Mural at J-N-J Grocery Store Honors Malcolm X and The Omaha Star

The Malcolm X Memorial Foundation, supported by the Nebraska Arts Council and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment, commissioned a 15-foot x 34-foot mural on the east wall of North Omaha’s J-N-J Grocery store, 3247 N. 42nd Street.  The mural was publicly unveiled on Nov. 9.

Omaha artist Gabrielle Gaines-Liwaru, founder of G. D’Ebony Outreach, and Lincoln, Nebraska artist Ben Jones, founder of Anti-Oppression Art, collaborated on the mural project.   An inscription from Malcolm X states, “We need more light about each other… Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience and patience creates UNITY.”  Chéamera Liwaru, an Omaha North High School student, researched and found the inspirational quote by Malcolm X. Lethaniel Bradford, an Omaha Benson High School student, painted the inscription on the mural.

The Malcolm X Memorial Foundation values youth leadership and character development through the arts and encouraged neighborhood youth participation in the creation of the mural. Several young people, ranging from grade school to freshmen in college, assisted with the mural.

“I do what I do to honor my ancestors by making the world a better place for our descendants.” Ben Jones said.  “In art I hope my work might inspire others towards the same.”

During the painting process, neighborhood residents stopped by and shared life experiences and positive feedback with the artists.

“I didn’t come to J-N-J Grocery just to paint,” says Gaines-Liwaru, “I came to listen to the voices of the neighborhood.”

Gaines-Liwaru also said:

“We want to thank Dr. Marguerita Washinton, publisher of The Omaha Star, for giving the project her blessing. This endeavor was a labor of love and a mission of anti-oppression. That best sums the overall experience for both Ben Jones and myself.

“We came to paint, and to unite with a team of people who believe in helping bring people in the neighborhood a sense of personal empowerment. J-N-J grocery store sits in the middle of an area that features the Omaha Street School, the Turning Point campus with Big Mama’s Kitchen & Catering, and the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation Center and Park. So the message of the mural is meant to reflect the beating heart for neighborhood social change that all of these entities are working toward.

“The inscription from Malcolm X on the wall is a truthful and a tough love message that people will not reject as militant. The double imagery of the Malcolm X pointing upward signifies a seriousness and urgency to revitalize love, understanding, patience and unity to our community.  We do need more light about each other.  In this case lights means understanding God’s connected purpose for us all, to expand and show truth in a way that more people can understand and accept it themselves and our community. A lot of people have associated 42nd and Bedford Avenue as a place of crime and negativity, but we never experienced any of that during more than 45 working hours developing the mural.

“We hope this project will serve as a teaching tool and a source of inspiration for people to live better, to look for things that will bring light and positivity to North Omaha and further evidence of what our community can accomplish through the collaboration of positive, hope-filled people.”

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7 Reasons Why Arts are Important

  1. They are languages that all people speak that cut across racial, cultural, social, educational, and economic barriers and enhance cultural appreciation and awareness.
  2. They provide opportunities for self-expression, bringing the inner world into the outer world of concrete reality.
  3. They develop both independence and collaboration.
  4. They make it possible to use personal strengths in meaningful ways and to bridge into understanding sometimes difficult abstractions through these strengths.
  5. They improve academic achievement — enhancing test scores, attitudes, social skills, critical and creative thinking.
  6. They exercise and develop higher order thinking skills including analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and “problem-finding.”
  7. They provide the means for every student to learn.

Adapted from “Why the arts are important?” by Dee Dickenson

10 Important reasons for reading

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-Reading is an active mental process: Unlike sitting in front of the idiot box (TV), reading makes you use your brain. While reading you would be forced to reason out many things which are unfamiliar to you. In this process you would use the grey cells of your brain to think and become smarter.
-Reading improves your vocabulary: Remember in elementary school when you learned how to infer the meaning of one word by reading the context of the other words in the sentence? You get the same benefit from book reading. While reading books, especially challenging ones, you will find yourself exposed to many new words you wouldn’t be otherwise.
-Gives you a glimpse into other cultures and places of the world: How would you know about the life of people in Mexico if you don’t read about it? Reading gives you an insight into the diversity of ethnicity of people, their customs, their lifestyles etc. You become more aware about the different places and the code of conduct in those places.
Improves concentration and focus: It requires you to focus on what you are reading for long periods. Unlike magazines, Internet posts or e-Mails that might contain small chunks of information, books tell the whole story. Since you must concentrate in order to read, like a muscle, you will get better at concentration.
-Builds self-esteem: The more you read, the more knowledgeable you become. With more knowledge comes more confidence. More confidence builds self-esteem. So it’s a chain reaction. Since you are so well read, people look to you for answers. Your feelings about yourself can only get better.
-Improves memory: Many studies show if you don’t use your memory, you lose it. Crossword puzzles are an example of a word game that staves off Alzheimer’s. Reading, although not a game, helps you stretch your memory muscles in a similar way. Reading requires remembering details, facts and figures and in literature, plot lines, themes and characters.
-Improves your discipline: Making time to read is something we all know we should do, but who schedules book reading time every day? Very few… That’s why adding book reading to your daily schedule and sticking to it, improves discipline.
-Improves creativity: Reading about diversity of life and exposing yourself to new ideas and more information helps to develop the creative side of the brain as it imbibes innovation into your thinking process.
-You always have something to talk about: Have you ever found yourself in an embarrassing situation where you didn’t have anything to talk about? Did you hate yourself for making a fool of yourself? Do you want a remedy for this? It’s simple. Start reading. Reading widens your horizon of information. You’ll always have something to talk about. You can discuss various plots in the novels you read, you can discuss the stuff you are learning in the business books you are reading as well. The possibilities of sharing become endless.
-Reduces boredom: One of the rules I have is if I am feeling bored, I will pick up a book and start reading. What I’ve found by sticking to this is that I become interested in the book’s subject and stop being bored. I mean, if you’re bored anyway, you might as well be reading a good book, right?
If you want to break the monotony of a lazy, uncreative and boring life, go and grab an interesting book. Turn the pages to explore a new world filled with information and ingenuity.

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Open Letter to Nebraska Hall of Fame Commission

by Tm Heller
I write in support of the admission of Malcolm X to the Nebraska Hall of Fame. I regret that I was unable to attend the initial hearings due to other commitments. But, I want to submit to you my opinions.

I am not African-American.

I am not Muslim.

In fact, I am a white, Roman Catholic, Conservative.

Yet, I believe quite strongly that Malcolm X, aka Malcolm Little, deserves to be in the Nebraska Hall of Fame. Please allow me to explain why.

You are most likely familiar with his story. Malcolm’s autobiography has been a best-seller and a major motion picture. But, you are not aware of how I came to learn of him. I have spent most of my life in Omaha, but it wasn’t until the mid-90s that I was made aware that Omaha was the site of his birth. I was the Chairman of the Omaha Young Republicans at the time. One of my members, Dean Mathisen, pointed out to me that Malcolm’s birthsite in Omaha at 34th & Pinkney had become a dumping ground, in spite of the fact that a historical marker sits on the site. He urged me to consider an outreach project of cleaning up the grounds. I knew little of Malcolm, other than that he was a highly vocal, racially charged leader in the civil rights movement who had been assassinated. At Dean’s urging (actually he gave me the book) I read Malcolm’s autobiography.

I won’t lie to you. For the first three-fifths of the the book, I was wondering, “Why in the world am I even considering this? This man is so racist and anti-peace! Malcolm was as racist and bigoted as the KKK or Margaret Sanger. But, as I finished the book, I developed a profound respect for Malcolm and his continued quest for knowledge and the evolution of his mind.

Malcolm was, very much,a product of his environment. He grew up poor and was taught racial intolerance from both his father, a follower of Marcus Garvey and the the bigots and racists who tormented him throughout his life. Seeing little chance for success, he turned to a life a crime. His incarceration was one of the pivotal moments in Malcolm’s life.

In prison, Malcolm took advantages of the opportunities presented to him to feed his mind. Sadly, he fed it poorly. He succumbed, like many to the “blame game.” (“This isn’t my fault, this is the fault of someone else,” philosophy) That being said, he educated himself. He took up his cause and fought for it. The cause was right, the methods were not. He advocated hatred and revolution as the means to an end. Revolution is sometimes necessary, but hatred as a motivator is not.

But, Malcolm had an insatiable quest for knowledge. He possessed a keen intellect. As he traveled, speaking against racial oppression and engaging in spirited debates, the blinders of hatred that kept him focused, were gradually lifted. He began to question what he had been taught. There were things that didn’t add up. His mentors were not who he thought they were. Through his own efforts, he became self-aware. Tormented by what he knew and didn’t know, like Galileo, he sought the truth. Like Galileo, he was urged to be silent.

He traveled to Mecca, on his own accord, another pivotal moment. He learned the truth, “that “all men are created equal”. He brought that back to the Nation of Islam to enlighten them. And for that, he was silenced…murdered by the Nation of Islam.

With that knowledge, I organized the Omaha Young Republicans to engage in regular clean-ups of the site. We acquired numerous dumpsters. more than I can number and filled them to overflowing. (These were semi-sized dumpsters, not the small ones.) Gradually, revealing a landscape that been occluded by time and disdain. I lobbied the City of Omaha to put up signs indicative of the birthsite, so that people of Omaha would know what was there.

The small board that owned the land took notice. Inspired, they have turned a dumping ground into a growing memorial to a native Nebraskan who changed the landscape of racial politics and the civil rights movement. Mr. Liwaru and his associates on the board have done well. I applaud them for their efforts.

On a personal note, during one of her visits to Omaha I was able to meet and talk with Malcolm’s daughter, Attallah Shabbazz. We discussed, at some length, the work I had organized and her father’s life. As we parted, Ms. Shabbazz remarked to me that, “Of these people, you best understand my father.” I remain truly humbled by that statement. It is why I am so motivated to write to you about Malcolm. He is often misunderstood and judged by his errors and not by the good he accomplished and the vision he achieved.

I believe Malcolm exemplifies the spirit of Nebraska. Our Nebraska virtues and values of: Determination, Leadership, Vision, Knowledge, Courage, Justice and Truth and as such deserves to be recognized by the Nebraska Hall of Fame..

Like others before and since, Malcolm X paid the ultimate price for his beliefs. Sadly, at the hands of his friends, who blinded by their hatred of others destroyed a life that would have opened their eyes.

Like those already installed, Malcolm exhibited a willingness to stand up for what is right. He showed determination in the face of insurmountable obstacles. He was passionate about his cause. He had a inquisitive mind that opened his eyes, and ours, to new possibilities. Like those already installed, Malcolm let an indelible fingerprint on our state, our nation and our world.

Like Governor Norris, he was a reformer.
Like Willa Cather, he was a visionary with heart.
Like General Pershing, he was a motivator of men and a strong able leader.
Like Lorne Eiseley, he was a philosopher.
Like Fr. Flanagan, he had a great heart and a desire to change society for the better.
Like Buffalo Bill, he was a rebel and a showman.
Like William Jennings Bryan, he was a gifted orator and religious leader.
Like Bess Aldrich, his story has been translated into innumerable languages.
Like John G. Neihardt, we was a gifted writer.
Like Susette Tibbles, he sought rights for the oppressed.
Like J. Sterling Morton, he was working for the future.
Like Red Cloud, he worked for his people.
Like Grace Abbott, he was a pioneer for social legislation.
Like Charles Bessey, he was tireless in pursuit of his goals.
Like Mari Sandoz, he believed and lived in the stimulation of the mind.

Like Standing Bear, he found a better way.

Unlike these, the was assassinated for doing what was right.
Unlike these, he remains largely unknown to Nebraskans.

To the Members of the Nebraska Hall of Fame Commission:

I strongly urge the admission of Malcolm Little (Malcolm X/El Hajj Malik El Shabbazz) to the Nebraska Hall of Fame.

Nebraska Hall of Fame Commission Meetings, Hearings, and Testimony

Nebraska Hall of Fame Commission Meetings, Hearings, and Testimony.

2014 Hall of Fame Nomination Decision Meeting on Friday, November 16, 2012, 2:00 p.m. in Lincoln, NE.

Please click the link above for the agenda for the Hall of Fame Commission meeting scheduled for Friday, November 16, 2012, 2:00 p.m. in hearing room #1113 located on the ground floor of the Capitol. Hearing room #1113 is located in the southwest quadrant of the ground floor.

Parking: Street parking around the State Capitol building is available.

The agenda has been set so that there will be about an hour for general discussion by the Commission, concerning the candidates. Oral testimony pertaining to the nominees will not be taken at this meeting given the fact that the required three public hearings were held and all Commissioners have both the notes of those hearings and all written testimony submitted to date. Anyone wishing to submit additional written comments should send them to the Secretary of the Commission by November 9. Following the discussion, the Commission will try to reach a decision on the one inductee to be inducted for the five year period of 2010-2014.

 This meeting will be conducted in strict accordance with the Nebraska Open Meetings Act. All discussion and deliberation will be conducted in open session; all votes will be roll call votes.

Please contact Michael J. Smith, Secretary to the Hall of Fame Commission at michael.smith@nebraska.gov or 402-471-4745 if you have any questions.

America’s Lone Justice

http://www.thereader.com/index.php/site/comments/americas_lone_justice/

Ramsey Clark implores Nebraska to “Free Ed and Mondo”

BY KIETRYN ZYCHAL
“After forty-two years in prison, how can we help them?”

The first question asked after Ramsey Clark’s speech last weekend does not have an easy answer. Clark, 84, a former Attorney General who served under Lyndon Johnson, traveled to Nebraska on a humanitarian mission to visit Ed Poindexter and Mondo We Langa (David Rice) at the Nebraska State Penitentiary. The men, now 68 and 66 years old, have been incarcerated for forty-two years for the 1970 bombing death of an Omaha police officer, a crime they insist they did not commit.
The state’s main witness was a 15-year old youth named Duane Peak who testified that the pair made a suitcase bomb and instructed him to put it in a vacant house and call 911 to lure police to the house. Peak was subpoenaed to submit to voice analysis in 2006. His voice was ruled out as the caller, but the courts did not grant a new trial based on the voice analysis. Poindexter and We Langa currently have no appeals pending. Clark spoke to about 75 people at the Malcolm X Foundation the day after he visited them.

“I think these two men are certainly innocent of the acts for which they’ve been accused and by our system convicted,” he said. “But I don’t think that’s the real question. The real question is what kind of people are we that we would incarcerate two such valuable citizens for life?”

He praised both men for their intellectual accomplishments and ability to stay strong under the circumstances. “If you could see them, you would be inspired. When you see someone who has been in there a long time who still understands who he is…” He finished his sentence by saying, “They are our hope.” Clark called the men “uncrushable.”

To the first questioner who asked how to help, he responded, “Work with organizations that are already working to free them. There are people all over the place. Write to the governor, state senators and legislators. Write to the superintendent of corrections. Tell them, ‘As a Nebraska citizen, I’m very distressed that they have been in prison so long. It’s barbaric.’”

The second questioner voiced frustration shared by Ed and Mondo’s supporters. “It doesn’t matter what evidence comes out that they are innocent, Nebraska says you’re going to stay there until you die. So, what can be done about that? ‘Cause there’s been new evidence, but it doesn’t make any difference.” Clark told him, “The solution is not in finding new evidence. It doesn’t matter at this stage. The only decent and just thing to do is to say to your elected officials, ‘It’s been far too long, we want them free now.’”

He cited Norway as a country that does not believe in punitive prison sentences. “They consider 20 years to be a long sentence,” he said.

Nebraskans for Justice, a non-profit organization that advocates for the release of Poindexter and We Langa, arranged for Clark’s visit and the lecture. They advertised for anyone with information about the bombing to come forward. No one did, however one man in the audience told of his personal connection to the explosion that took the life of police officer Larry Minard.

“I lived across the street from the bombing. I was 15 years old. It blew out five windows in my house. I smelled the gun powder. I went to the screen because I could hear the police. I knew the vacant house. William King’s family had lived there until they moved to the projects. I knew Duane Peak. I grew up with Duane, he lived on that street, too. I heard the 911 call they said he made. That was not Duane Peak’s voice. I also knew David Rice. He couldn’t play basketball but he was brilliant. They just wanted him and Ed off the street.”

Poindexter and We Langa were members of Omaha’s Black Panther Party until it was disbanded by the national headquarters for inaction. Subsequently, they formed other organizations including the United Front Against Fascism and the National Committee to Combat Fascism. Homemade newsletters printed by these groups used inflammatory language to protest police actions, forming the basis for suspicion that members of the group were responsible for the bombing when entered as evidence at their trial.

Others in the audience brought up the role of the FBI’s secret investigation of political groups during this era, code named COINTELPRO, for counter intelligence program. Many believe COINTELPRO played a role in the prosecution of Poindexter and We Langa. Clark stressed, “It was not just the FBI. Other federal agencies also participated with state and local police. Police investigation is always important for the public to survey carefully. It’s where our human rights are protected or violated,” he said.

After the speech, audience members approached Clark to shake his hand or have their picture taken with him. He was heard joking with one of them, “This photo will ruin your reputation.”

Click the link for full audio of Duane Peak’s 2006 voice analysis:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_QgQ0Pv1ug

Malcolm X Staring Denzel Washington

Malcolm X Screening

Malcolm X Staring Denzel Washington

Denzel plays Malcolm X

A special 20th anniversary screening of Spike Lee’s Academy Award-nominated biopic about the life and death of the Omaha-born activist, featuring a career-defining, award-worthy performance from Denzel Washington. Presented in collaboration with Film Streams and the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation.

Purchase tickets at www.filmstreams.org.

“A whole generation of young people are being introduced to Malcolm X and people who’ve heard of him or had limited views of him are having their views expanded. Above all, we hope that black folks will come out of the theater inspired and moved to do something positive… As with any film I’ve done, people will take away their own message. For a large part of the white audience, however, I think we’re helping redefine Malcolm X because for the most part their view of Malcolm came from the white media which portrayed him as anti-white, anti-Semitic, and pro-violence. It’s funny, [many white journalists told me] they felt they’d been robbed, that they’d been cheated, because they’d never been taught about Malcolm X in school…. A great miseducation has gone on about this man.” (Spike Lee)

Secular People’s Struggle

This is a secular, people’s struggle for justice — not a religious one.

By Larry Pinkney

Online Journal Guest Writer

“If we bring up religion, we’ll be in an argument, and the best way to keep away from arguments and differences, as I said earlier, [is to] put your religion at home — in the closet. Keep it between you and your God . . .” –Malcolm X [el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz]

The struggle for social, political, and economic justice derives its fundamental authority from the legitimate yearnings and needs of all people — be they Black, White, Brown, Red, or Yellow. The human right to social, political, and economic justice is not bound by color, gender, or religion, etc. One of the great strengths of the people’s struggle for justice is that it is inclusive, not exclusive.

We must continue to be steadfast in our sustained, ongoing efforts to organize for human rights, and not allow ourselves to be stymied into a non-secular pitfall. Let us remember, that as we engage in this people’s struggle, the right to religious freedom, for example, must also include the right to be free of or from religion. Thus, it is imperative that we stay focused upon the people’s struggle in the context of full social, political, and economic justice for all peoples.

There are far too few citizens of this nation, and immigrants in this nation, that are aware of the long and rich history, and secular nature of ongoing and successful people’s struggles in the United States. Indeed, the corporate media, the government, and many ‘educational’ institutions endeavor to obfuscate, confuse, and divide everyday Black, White, Brown, Red, and Yellow people by injecting, among other things, religion as a controlling factor into the political narrative of the people’s struggle. This is extremely dangerous, and we must not succumb to this divisive, pigeon-holing, and distracting tactic.

In the context of the struggle for social, economic, and political justice [i.e. human rights], it is essentially irrelevant as to whether one is a believer in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Agnosticism, or Atheism, etc. Our struggle is not confined to being a religious or a non-religious one; it is a people’s struggle for justice — and nothing short of that. The principles of justice are, and must be, all encompassing.

Even as political repression, including the de facto gutting of the U.S. Constitution, continues unabated in this nation, so must our determination to resist and reverse this repression. Yes, even as joblessness, homelessness, home foreclosures, racism, and mass incarceration steadily rise, we must seize the time to educate, agitate, and organize for a sane and equitable society and world.

As the perpetual, unconscionable and bloody U.S. wars and conflicts drag on in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and elsewhere on this planet, it is incumbent upon us to be creative revolutionaries in the people’s struggle for social, political, and economic justice. We must not allow the unconstitutional, heavy-handed, and Machiavellian tactics (replete with cynical, so-called ‘plausible deniability’) on the part of the Obama / Biden regime, the NSA (National Security Agency), the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), or any other local, state, or federal agency, to chill, stifle, or neutralize our efforts and activities as a part of the legitimate and necessary people’s struggle for social, economic, and political justice. Nor must we allow, or succumb to, the hegemony on the part of the corporate / military elite.

This people’s struggle for justice is rooted firmly in the determination to exercise our human rights in this nation and throughout the world. In a word, what is at stake in this struggle for the present and the future is quite literally, everything. We know that the alleged ‘war on terrorism’ conducted by the U.S. Government and its allies is, in reality, a war on the fundamental human rights of the people of this nation and planet. It is a war intended to stifle dissent — to discredit, imprison, and silence the truth tellers. To reiterate: at stake in this people’s struggle is literally everything.

It should be crystal clear by now that placing our belief in the insidiously articulate Mr. ‘hope and change,’ Nobel peace prize-toting, drone missile-president, Barack Obama, or in his corporate accomplices of the Democratic Party foxes and the Republican Party wolves is a recipe for unmitigated disaster for everyday Black, White, Brown, Red, and Yellow people nationally and globally. Our belief must be in ourselves and each other collectively. Whatever differences we everyday common people might have with one another should be, as Malcolm X so aptly said, addressed and dealt with “in the closet;” and we must step out of that proverbial “closet” — more united and determined than ever before. The urgency of this cannot be overemphasized. Be exhorted by the ever timely words of Joe Hill, and “Don’t Mourn. ORGANIZE!”

Onward now, my sisters and brothers! Onward!

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board Member Larry Pinkney is a veteran of the Black Panther Party, the former Minister of Interior of the Republic of New Africa, a former political prisoner and the only American to have successfully self-authored his civil/political rights case to the United Nations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In connection with his political organizing activities in opposition to voter suppression, etc., Pinkney was interviewed in 1988 on the nationally televised PBS NewsHour, formerly known as TheMacNeil/LehrerNewsHour. For more about Larry Pinkney see the book, Saying No to Power: Autobiography of a 20th Century Activist and Thinker, by William Mandel [Introduction by Howard Zinn]. (Click here to read excerpts from the book). Click here to contact Mr. Pinkney.

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Organization of AfroAmerican Unity

Program of the Organization of Afro-American Unity
Malcolm X, et al. (taken from
the Malcolm X Museum) via malcolm-x.org

note – this was originally supposed to be presented on Feb. 15, but since Malcolm’s home was fire-bombed, this was delayed for a week — Feb. 21, to be exact — the day he was assassinated…
also, the addresses at the end are probably no longer functional (to my knowledge, the OAAU no longer exists), so please don’t bother sending cheques or money orders to the OAAU

Pledging unity…

Promoting justice…

Transcending compromise…

We, Afro-Americans, people who originated in Africa and now reside in America, speak out against the slavery and oppression inflicted upon us by this racist power structure. We offer to downtrodden Afro-American people courses of action that will conquer oppression, relieve suffering, and convert meaningless struggle into meaningful action.

Confident that our purpose will be achieved, we Afro-Americans from all walks of life make the following known:

ESTABLISHMENT

Having stated our determination, confidence, and resolve, the Organization of Afro-American Unity is hereby established on the 15th day of February, 1965, in the city of New York.

Upon this establishment, the Afro-American people will launch a cultural revolution which will provide the means for restoring our identity that we might rejoin our brothers and sisters on the African continent, culturally, psychologically, economically, and share with them the sweet fruits of freedom from oppression and independence of racist governments.

1. The Organization of Afro-American Unity welcomes all persons of African origin to come together and dedicate their ideas, skills, and lives to free our people from oppression.

2. Branches of the Organization of Afro-American Unity may be established by people of African descent wherever they may be and whatever their ideology — as long as they be descendants of Africa and dedicated to our one goal: freedom from oppression.

3. The basic program of the Organization of Afro-American Unity which is now being presented can and will be modified by the membership, taking into consideration national, regional, and local conditions that require flexible treatment.

4. The Organization of Afro-American Unity encourages active participation of each member since we feel that each and every Afro-American has something to contribute to our freedom. Thus each member will be encouraged to participate in the committee of his or her choice.

5. Understanding the differences that have been created amongst us by our oppressors in order to keep us divided, the Organization of Afro-American Unity strives to ignore or submerge these artificial divisions by focusing our activities and our loyalties upon our one goal: freedom from oppression.

BASIC AIMS AND OBJECTIVES

Self-determination

We assert that we Afro-Americans have the right to direct and control our lives, our history, and our future rather than to have our destinies determined by American racists, we are determined to rediscover our true African culture, which was crushed and hidden for over four hundred years in order to enslave us and keep us enslaved up to today…

We, Afro-Americans — enslaved, oppressed, and denied by a society that proclaims itself the citadel of democracy, are determined to rediscover our history, promote the talents that are suppressed by our racist enslavers, renew the culture that was crushed by a slave government and thereby — to again become a free people.

National unity

Sincerely believing that the future of Afro-Americans is dependent upon our ability to unite our ideas, skills, organizations, and institutions…

We, the Organization of Afro-American Unity pledge to join hands and hearts with all people of African origin in a grand alliance by forgetting all the differences that the power structure has created to keep us divided and enslaved. We further pledge to strengthen our common bond and strive toward one goal: freedom from oppression.

THE BASIC UNITY PROGRAM

The program of the Organization of Afro-American Unity shall evolve from five strategic points which are deemed basic and fundamental to our grand alliance. Through our committees we shall proceed in the following general areas.

I. Restoration

In order to enslave the African it was necessary for our enslavers to completely sever our communications with the African continent and the Africans that remained there. In order to free ourselves from the oppression of our enslavers then, it is absolutely necessary for the Afro-American to restore communications with Africa.

The Organization of Afro-American Unity will accomplish this goal by means of independent national and international newspapers, publishing ventures, personal contacts, and other available communications media.

We, Afro-Americans, must also communicate to one another the truths about American slavery and the terrible effects it has upon our people. We must study the modern system of slavery in order to free ourselves from it. We must search out all the bare and ugly facts without shame for we are still victims, still slaves — still oppressed. Our only shame is believing falsehood and not seeking the truth.

We must learn all that we can about ourselves. We will have to know the whole story of how we were kidnapped from Africa; how our ancestors were brutalized, dehumanized, and murdered; and how we are continually kept in a state of slavery for the profit of a system conceived in slavery, built by slaves and dedicated to keeping us enslaved in order to maintain itself.

We must begin to reeducate ourselves and become alert listeners in order to learn as much as we can about the progress of our motherland — Africa. We must correct in our minds the distorted image that our enslaver has portrayed to us of Africa that he might discourage us from reestablishing communications with her and thus obtain freedom from oppression.

II. Reorientation

In order to keep the Afro-American enslaved, it was necessary to limit our thinking to the shores of America — to prevent us from identifying our problems with the problems of other peoples of African origin. This made us consider ourselves an isolated minority without allies anywhere.

The Organization of Afro-American Unity will develop in the Afro-American people a keen awareness of our relationship with the world at large and clarify our roles, rights, and responsibilities as human beings. We can accomplish this goal by becoming well-informed concerning world affairs and understanding that our struggle is part of a larger world struggle of oppressed peoples against all forms of oppression. We must change the thinking of the Afro-American by liberating our minds through the study of philosophies and psychologies, cultures and languages that did not come from our racist oppressors. Provisions are being made for the study of languages such as Swahili, Hausa, and Arabic. These studies will give our people access to ideas and history of mankind at large and thus increase our mental scope.

We can learn much about Africa by reading informative books and by listening to the experiences of those who have traveled there, but many of us can travel to the land of our choice and experience for ourselves. The Organization of Afro-American Unity will encourage the Afro-American to travel to Africa, the Caribbean, and to other places where our culture has not been completely crushed by brutality and ruthlessness.

III. Education

After enslaving us, the slave masters developed a racist educational system which justified to its posterity the evil deeds that had been committed against the African people and their descendants. Too often the slave himself participates so completely in this system that he justifies having been enslaved and oppressed.

The Organization of Afro-American Unity will devise original educational methods and procedures which will liberate the minds of our children from the vicious lies and distortions that are fed to us from the cradle to keep us mentally enslaved. We encourage Afro-Americans themselves to establish experimental institutes and educational workshops, liberation schools, and child-care centers in the Afro-American communities.

We will influence the choice of textbooks and equipment used by our children in the public schools while at the same time encouraging qualified Afro-Americans to write and publish the text books needed to liberate our minds. Until we completely control our own educational institutions, we must supplement the formal training of our children by educating them at home.

IV. Economic security

After the Emancipation Proclamation, when the system of slavery changed from chattel slavery to wage slavery, it was realized that the Afro-American constituted the largest homogeneous ethnic group with a common origin and common group experience in the United States and, if allowed to exercise economic or political freedom, would in a short period of time own this country. Therefore racists in this government developed techniques that would keep the Afro-American people economically dependent upon the slave masters — economically slaves — twentieth-century slaves.

The Organization of Afro-American Unity will take measures to free our people from economic slavery. One way of accomplishing this will be to maintain a technician pool: that is, a bank of technicians. In the same manner that blood banks have been established to furnish blood to those who need it at the time it is needed, we must establish a technician bank. We must do this so that the newly independent nations of Africa can turn to us who are their Afro-American brothers for the technicians they will need now and in the future. Thereby we will be developing an open market for the many skills we possess and at the same time we will be supplying Africa with the skills she can best use. This project will therefore be one of mutual cooperation and mutual benefit.

V. Self-defense

In order to enslave a people and keep them subjugated, their right to self-defense must be denied. They must be constantly terrorized, brutalized, and murdered. These tactics of suppression have been developed to a new high by vicious racists whom the United States government seems unwilling or incapable of dealing with in terms of the law of this land. Before the emancipation it was the Black man who suffered humiliation, torture, castration, and murder. Recently our women and children, more and more, are becoming the victims of savage racists whose appetite for blood increases daily and whose deeds of depravity seem to be openly encouraged by all law enforcement agencies. Over five thousand Afro-Americans have been lynched since the Emancipation Proclamation and not one murderer has been brought to justice!

The Organization of Afro-American Unity, being aware of the increased violence being visited upon the Afro-American and of the open sanction of this violence and murder by the police departments throughout this country and the federal agencies — do affirm our right and obligation to defend ourselves in order to survive as a people.

We encourage the Afro-Americans to defend themselves against the wanton attacks of racist aggressors whose sole aim is to deny us the guarantees of the United Nations Charter of Human Rights and of the Constitution of the United States.

The Organization of Afro-American Unity will take those private steps that are necessary to insure the survival of the Afro-American people in the face of racist aggression and the defense of our women and children. We are within our rights to see to it that the Afro-American people who fulfill their obligations to the United States government (we pay taxes and serve in the armed forces of this country like American citizens do) also exact from this government the obligations that it owes us as a people, or exact these obligations ourselves. Needless to say, among this number we include protection of certain inalienable rights such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

In areas where the United States government has shown itself unable and/or unwilling to bring to justice the racist oppressors, murderers, who kill innocent children and adults, the Organization of Afro-American Unity advocates that the Afro-American people insure ourselves that justice is done — whatever the price and by any means necessary.

NATIONAL CONCERNS

General terminologies:

We Afro-Americans feel receptive toward all peoples of goodwill. We are not opposed to multiethnic associations in any walk of life. In fact, we have had experiences which enable us to understand how unfortunate it is that human beings have been set apart or aside from each other because of characteristics known as “racial” characteristics.

However Afro-Americans did not create the prejudiced background and atmosphere in which we live. And we must face the facts. A “racial” society does exist in stark reality, and not with equality for Black people; so we who are nonwhite must meet the problems inherited from centuries of inequalities and deal with the present situations as rationally as we are able.

The exclusive ethnic quality of our unity is necessary for self-preservation. We say this because our experiences backed up by history show that African culture and Afro-American culture not be accurately recognized and reported and cannot be respectably expressed nor be secure in its survival if we remain the divided, and therefore the helpless, victims of an oppressive society.

We appreciate the fact that when the people involved have real equality and justice, ethnic intermingling can be beneficial to all. We must denounce, however, all people who are oppressive through their policies or actions and who are lacking in justice in their dealings with other people, whether the injustices proceed from power, class, or “race.” We must be unified in order to be protected from abuse or misuse.

We consider the word “integration” a misleading, false term. It carries with it certain implications to which Afro-Americans cannot subscribe. This terminology has been applied to the current regulation projects which are supposed]y “acceptable” to some classes of society. This very “acceptable” implies some inherent superiority or inferiority instead of acknowledging the true source of the inequalities involved.

We have observed that the usage of the term “integration” was designated and promoted by those persons who expect to continue a (nicer) type of ethnic discrimination and who intend to maintain social and economic control of all human contacts by means of imagery, classifications, quotas, and manipulations based on color, national origin, or “racial” background and characteristics.

Careful evaluation of recent experiences shows that “integration” actually describes the process by which a white society is (remains) set in a position to use, whenever it chooses to use and however it chooses to use, the best talents of nonwhite people. This power-web continues to build a society wherein the best contributions of Afro-Americans, in fact of all nonwhite people, would continue to be absorbed without note or exploited to benefit a fortunate few while the masses of both white and nonwhite people would remain unequal and unbenefited.

We are aware that many of us lack sufficient training and are deprived and unprepared as a result of oppression, discrimination, and the resulting discouragement, despair, and resignation. But when we are not qualified, and where we are unprepared, we must help each other and work out plans for bettering our own conditions as Afro-Americans. Then our assertions toward full opportunity can be made on the basis of equality as opposed to the calculated tokens of “integration.” Therefore, we must reject this term as one used by all persons who intend to mislead Afro-Americans.

Another term, “negro,” is erroneously used and is degrading in the eyes of informed and self-respecting persons of African heritage. It denotes stereotyped and debased traits of character and classifies a whole segment of humanity on the basis of false information. From all intelligent viewpoints, it is a badge of slavery and helps to prolong and perpetuate oppression and discrimination.

Persons who recognize the emotional thrust and plain show of disrespect in the Southerner’s use of “nigra” and the general use of “nigger” must also realize that all three words are essentially the same. The other two. “nigra” and “nigger” are blunt and undeceptive. The one representing respectability, “negro,” is merely the same substance in a polished package and spelled with a capital letter. This refinement is added so that a degrading terminology can be legitimately used in general literature and “polite” conversation without embarrassment.

The term “negro” developed from a word in the Spanish language which is actually an adjective (describing word) meaning “black,” that is, the color black. In plain English, if someone said or was called a “black” or a “dark,” even a young child would very naturally question: “a black what?” or “a dark what?” because adjectives do not name, they describe. Please take note that in order to make use of this mechanism, a word was transferred from another language and deceptively changed in function from an adjective to a noun, which is a naming word. Its application in the nominative (naming) sense was intentionally used to portray persons in a position of objects or “things.” It stamps the article as being “all alike and all the same.” It denotes: a “darkie,” a slave, a subhuman, an ex-slave, a “negro.”

Afro-Americans must re-analyze and particularly question our own use of this term, keeping in mind all the facts. In light of the historical meanings and current implications, all intelligent and informed Afro-Americans and Africans continue to reject its use in the noun form as well as a proper adjective. Its usage shall continue to be considered as unenlightened and objectionable or deliberately offensive whether in speech or writing.

We accept the use of Afro-American, African, and Black man in reference to persons of African heritage. To every other part of mankind goes this measure of just respect. We do not desire more nor shall we accept less.

General considerations:

Afro-Americans, like all other people, have human rights which are inalienable. This is, these human rights cannot be legally or justly transferred to another. Our human rights belong to us, as to all people, through God, not through the wishes nor according to the whims of other men.

We must consider that fact and other reasons why a proclamation of “Emancipation” should not be revered as a document of liberation. Any previous acceptance of and faith in such a document was based on sentiment, not on reality. This is a serious matter which we Afro-Americans must continue to reevaluate.

The original root-meaning of the word emancipation is: “To deliver up or make over as property by means of a formal act from a purchaser.” We must take note and remember that human beings cannot be justly bought or sold nor can their human rights be legally or justly taken away.

Slavery was, and still is, a criminal institution, that is: crime en masse. No matter what form it takes. subtle rules and policies, apartheid, etc., slavery and oppression of human rights stand as major crimes against God and humanity. Therefore, to relegate or change the state of such criminal deeds by means of vague legislation and noble euphemisms gives an honor to horrible commitments that is totally inappropriate.

Full implications and concomitant harvests were generally misunderstood by our fore-parents and are still misunderstood or avoided by some Afro-Americans today. However, the facts remain; and we, as enlightened Afro-Americans, will not praise and encourage any belief in emancipation. Afro-Americans everywhere must realize that to retain faith in such an idea means acceptance of being property and, therefore, less than a human being. This matter is a crucial one that Afro-Americans must continue to reexamine.

WORLDWIDE CONCERNS

The time is past due for us to internationalize the problems of Afro-Americans. We have been too slow in recognizing the link in the fate of Africans with the fate of Afro-Americans. We have been too unknowing to understand and too misdirected to ask our African brothers and sisters to help us mend the chain of our heritage.

Our African relatives who are in a majority in their own country have found it very difficult to gain independence from a minority. It is that much more difficult for Afro-Americans who are a minority away from the motherland and still oppressed by those who encourage the crushing of our African identity.

We can appreciate the material progress and recognize the opportunities available in the highly industrialized and affluent American society. Yet, we who are nonwhite face daily miseries resulting directly or indirectly from a systematic discrimination against us because of our God-given colors. These factors cause us to remember that our being born in America was an act of fate stemming from the separation of our fore-parents from Africa; not by choice, but by force.

We have for many years been divided among ourselves through deceptions and misunderstandings created by our enslavers, but we do here and now express our desires and intent to draw closer and be restored in knowledge and spirit through renewed relations and kinships with the African peoples. We further realize that our human rights, so long suppressed, are the rights of all mankind everywhere.

In light of all of our experiences and knowledge of the past, we, as Afro-Americans, declare recognition, sympathy, and admiration for all peoples and nations who are striving, as we are, toward self-realization and complete freedom from oppression.

The civil rights bill is a similarly misleading, misinterpreted document of legislation. The premise of its design and application is not respectable in the eyes of men who recognize what personal freedom involves and entails. Afro-Americans must answer this question for themselves: What makes this special bill necessary?

The only document that is in order and deserved with regard to the acts perpetuated through slavery and oppression prolonged to this day is a Declaration of condemnation. And the only legislation worthy of consideration or endorsement by Afro-Americans, the victims of these tragic institutions, is a Proclamation of Restitution. We Afro-Americans must keep these facts ever in mind.

We must continue to internationalize our philosophies and contacts toward assuming full human rights which include all the civil rights appertaining thereto. With complete understanding of our heritage as Afro-Americans, we must not do less.

Committees of the Organization of Afro-American Unity:

  • The Cultural Committee
  • The Economic Committee
  • The Educational Committee
  • The Political Committee
  • The Publications Committee
  • The Social Committee
  • The Self-Defense Committee
  • The Youth Committee
  • Staff committees: Finance, Fund-raising, Legal, Membership

For further information on the Organization of Afro-American Unity, write:
Organization of Afro-American Unity,
2090 Seventh Ave.,
Suite 128
New York 27, N.Y.

For speedier responses, address correspondence to a particular committee. For example, if you are interested in joining or establishing a chapter:
Membership Committee,
Organization of Afro-American Unity,
2090 Seventh Ave.,
Suite 128,
New York 27, NY.

We welcome your contributions in the form of checks or money orders.

MX Views on Women

The following is the 16th in a series of excerpts the Militant is running from Pathfinder Press’s latest book, Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power, by Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party. We encourage our readers to study, discuss, and help sell the book. The following is from a 1987 speech by Barnes printed under the title “Malcolm X: Revolutionary Leader of the Working Class.” Copyright © 2009 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.

When Malcolm left the Nation [of Islam], he didn’t initially have much to say about the rights or social position of women. But in the Autobiography [of Malcolm X]—the draft of which had been completed, with the help of journalist Alex Haley, only shortly before the assassination—Malcolm tells a story that sheds light on the speed and degree of his later evolution on this question. (In reading the Autobiography, we should always keep two things in mind. First, that the interviews were begun while Malcolm was still in the Nation, with Elijah Muhammad’s approval. And second, that Malcolm was denied the opportunity to review and edit the final draft, or bring it in line with his views at that time. According to Haley, the assassination coincided with the days he and Malcolm had tentatively set aside for that review.)

Toward the end of the Autobiography, Malcolm is describing his visit to Beirut, Lebanon, on the last day of April 1964. Going out for a walk, he says,

immediately my attention was struck by the mannerisms and attire of the Lebanese women. In the Holy Land [Saudi Arabia] there had been the very modest, very feminine Arabian women—and there was this sudden contrast of the half-French, half-Arab Lebanese women who projected in their dress and street manners more liberty, more boldness. I saw clearly the obvious European influence upon the Lebanese culture. It showed me how any country’s moral strength, or its moral weakness, is quickly measurable by the street attire and attitude of its women—especially its young women. Wherever the spiritual values have been submerged, if not destroyed, by an emphasis upon the material things, invariably, the women reflect it. Witness the women, both young and old, in America—where scarcely any moral values are left.

So that’s how Malcolm still approached the question of women’s social position a month or so after his break with the Nation. The emphasis remained on religious standards of modesty and sexual morality.

At roughly this same time, Malcolm was still an unequivocal opponent of what he called “intermarriage.” In the Autobiography, once again, Malcolm writes: “I’m right with the Southern white man who believes that you can’t have so-called ‘integration,’ at least not for long, without intermarriage increasing. And what good is this for anyone? Let’s again face reality. In a world as color-hostile as this, man or woman, black or white, what do they want with a mate of the other race?” …

By the end of Malcolm’s second trip to Africa and the Middle East in 1964, between early July and late November, however, his views had undergone a striking change—one that paralleled the evolution of how he thought and acted on other social and political questions. At a news conference during a stopover in Paris following that trip, Malcolm said that one of the things he had noticed during his travels was that

in every country you go to, usually the degree of progress can never be separated from the woman. If you’re in a country that’s progressive, the woman is progressive. If you’re in a country that reflects the consciousness toward the importance of education, it’s because the woman is aware of the importance of education.

But in every backward country you’ll find the women are backward, and in every country where education is not stressed it’s because the women don’t have education. So one of the things I became thoroughly convinced of in my recent travels is the importance of giving freedom to the women, giving her education, and giving her the incentive to get out there and put the same spirit and understanding in her children. And I am frankly proud of the contributions that our women have made in the struggle for freedom and I’m one person who’s for giving them all the leeway possible because they’ve made a greater contribution than many of us men.

[ … ]

This is a very advanced level of political understanding: that you can measure the degree of progress and development of a society by the place of women in its social, economic, and political life. Unlike Malcolm’s remarks just a few months earlier about women in Beirut, where female “modesty” and religious “morality” had been his starting point, now Malcolm was using political criteria. He overcame simple prejudice—which is what Malcolm’s earlier views reflected, whether expressed by him or by anyone else—and began replacing them with facts about the social position of women. He began talking about what women can and do accomplish to advance human progress, to advance revolutionary change, if barriers erected against them begin to be torn down.

Malcolm also changed his mind on interracial marriage. Appearing on a television talk show in Toronto, in mid-January 1965, Malcolm was asked by the host, Pierre Berton, whether he still held his earlier views on this question. Malcolm replied: “I believe in recognizing every human being as a human being—neither white, black, brown, or red; and when you are dealing with humanity as a family there’s no question of integration or intermarriage. It’s just one human being marrying another human being, or one human being living around and with another human being.”

What needs to be attacked, Malcolm told Berton, is the racist society that produces attitudes “hostile toward integration and toward intermarriage and toward these other strides toward oneness” of human beings, not “the reaction that develops among the people who are the victims of that negative society.”

In assessing the evolution of Malcolm’s attitude toward women’s rights—including the place he had come to recognize women would occupy in coming revolutionary struggles in the United States and worldwide—we should also note the shattering impact on Malcolm of his discovery that Elijah Muhammad was sexually abusing young female members of the Nation of Islam. According to Malcolm, this was the single fact, more than any particular political conflict per se, that marked a turning point in his relationship with the Nation. It deeply shook Malcolm’s confidence in the religious, political, and moral integrity of Elijah Muhammad and of the Nation of Islam itself… .

Finally, Malcolm deepened his understanding of the importance of combating the oppression of women as he watched them help lead the fight for Black rights in this country. When Fannie Lou Hamer came to New York in December 1964 to win support for the freedom struggle in Mississippi, Malcolm spoke alongside her at a rally in Harlem and gave her a platform that night at the meeting of the OAAU [Organization of Afro-American Unity]. Malcolm also admired and worked with Gloria Richardson, who had refused to call off demonstrations in Cambridge, Maryland, in face of white-supremacist thugs and the National Guard—as well as public rebukes by conservative Black leaders—and who publicly solidarized with Malcolm’s call for the right of self-defense against racist terror.

I mentioned earlier Malcolm’s insistence that the aim of the movement he was working to build was to awaken Blacks “to their humanity, to their own worth.” During the final months of his life, Malcolm also deepened his understanding that the fight to liberate half of humanity from their oppression, and to assert in action their political worth, sharply increased the potential forces of revolution in this country and around the world.