Didn’t that one semester at Howard University teach you anything? Apparently not.
I’m going to need Diddy to stick to ruining his artist’s careers instead of attempting some type of social commentary. It must be nice to be black, rich and oblivious to issues that plague society. Diddy, here’s a word of advice: Keep “Black Lives Matter” out of your mouth until you realize what it actually means. Take that.”
Normally I would ignore this. However, today is Malcolm X’s birthday, and I’m feeling some kind of way. Malcolm is my hero 365 days a year. I actually strive to live my life according to the example that he gave with his own life.
There has been a flood of popular opinion in the past year condemning what is called “respectability politics.” At the risk of greatly oversimplifying the issue I will define respectability politics as a strategy used by marginalized groups to say “if we make ourselves more respectable then bad things won’t happen to us.” Rappers like Kendrick Lamar, Common, Pharrell, and now Diddy have had the respectability politics tag hurled at them like a yo mama joke, whether they deserve it or not.
Opponents of the philosophy in the Black Lives Matter movement have raised the point that law enforcement officers, representatives of the State, will murder us no matter what we do. Whether we’re walking in the street or standing in front of a store or playing with a BB gun in the park or playing with a toy rifle in a Walmart or just riding a train, cops will find a reason to unjustly slay us. However, most people in this movement have shown themselves incapable of understanding the differences in nuance between a self-help philosophy and an attempt to win favor with the Establishment by being more like them.
Ironically, many of the same arguments being used against Diddy and others on Malcolm X’s birthday were also used against Malcolm X when he was alive. Malcolm rose to prominence in the late 1950’s as the National Representative of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam. As such, Malcolm was criticized for not taking an active role in supporting the many civil rights demonstrations across the country and especially in his home base of New York City.
There is a memorable scene in Spike Lee’s biopic of Malcolm X in which one of the Muslims was a victim of police brutality. Onlookers at the scene can be heard saying:
“So what you gonna do? He’ll rap a little. He’s a Muslim. But you ain’t gonna do nothing…but make a speech. Muslims talk a good game, but they never do nothing.”
That scene was partly fictional but the Muslims had this reputation because of Elijah Muhammad’s belief that you shouldn’t try to force your way in somewhere that you aren’t wanted. So if white people don’t want you at their hotels and restaurants and schools, don’t complain and protest about it, just build your own. Malcolm was the chief representative of this philosophy. He made countless speeches clowning Dr. King and other civil rights leaders for doing pretty much the exact same kinds of demonstrations that are being employed by the Black Lives Matter movement today. However, today the members of that movement are praising Malcolm and claiming him as an inspiration. Somebody is confused.
Malcolm didn’t believe in protesting. In 1962, Malcolm described an incident between the Muslims and the Los Angeles Police Department this way:
“In the shooting that took place, seven men were shot. Seven Muslims were shot. None of them were armed. None of them were struggling. None of them were fighting. None of them were trying to defend themselves at all. And after being taken to the police station, they were held for 48 hours and weren’t even given hospitalization. We have one now who is completely paralyzed. We just got all of them free last night. . . . And this happened in Los Angeles last Friday night, in the United States of America, not South Africa or France or Portugal or any place else or in Russia behind the iron curtain, but right her in the United States of America. . . .”
Malcolm didn’t want to speak to the media about this. He wanted to retaliate. To make a really long story short, he was ordered not to retaliate and he went to Los Angeles and spoke out about it as a Plan B. And that was the beginning of the end for the relationship between Malcolm and his teacher. Malcolm wanted some cops to die and it took every bit of self restraint that he could muster to follow the instruction not to go on a killing spree. However, neither Malcolm’s original plan or his back up plan included Black Lives Matter style protests.
The different philosophies and strategies represented by Malcolm X and Martin Luther King in the 1960’s are still present today, in different forms. Just as in the 1960s, the nonviolent civil rights direct action side of the equation receives the majority of the media attention and acclaim. But the spirit and the legacy of Malcolm X are alive and well in 2015, 50 years after he became an Ancestor.
Even though #BlackLivesMatter was created in response to Trayvon Martin being posthumously placed on trial for his own murder, it has become mostly associated with the demonstrations and the energy that swept the nation following the spontaneous combustion of righteous indignation in Ferguson after the murder of Michael Brown. I put my life on hold to be a part of what was happening in Ferguson and unsuccessfully attempted to infuse that activity with some of the spirit of Malcolm X.
Whatchu know about Chokwe Lumumba?
The Republic of New Africa (RNA) is a Black nationalist organization that was created in 1969 on the premise that an independent Black republic should be created out of the southern United States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, which were considered “subjugated lands.” The group’s manifesto demanded the United States government pay $400 billion in reparations for the injustices of slavery and segregation. It also argued that the American Africans should be allowed to vote on self-determination, as that opportunity was not provided at the end of slavery when the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution incorporated American Africans into the United States. The economy of the RNA was to be organized based on ujamaa, Tanzania’s model of cooperative economics and community self-sufficiency.
Two brothers, Milton and Richard Henry, who were associates of Malcolm X, formed an organization called the Malcolm X Society, which was devoted to the creation of an independent Black nation within the United States. Milton and Richard subsequently changed their names to Gaidi Obadele and Imari Abubakari Obadele, respectively. The brothers organized a meeting of 500 Black nationalists in Detroit, Michigan in 1968. Exiled former North Carolina NAACP leader Robert Williams was chosen as the first President of the Republic of New Africa. The group wrote a declaration of independence and established the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Africa (PGRNA). The group anticipated that the U.S. would reject their demands and made plans for armed resistance and a prolonged guerilla war.
To make another really long story short, Chokwe Lumumba would eventually serve as Minister of Justice and Midwest Regional Vice President of the PGRNA. Along with other New Afrikan revolutionary nationalists from the PGRNA, House of Umoja, and Afrikan People’s Party; Chokwe founded the New Afrikan People’s Organization (NAPO) in 1984 to further the aims of the RNA. He became the Chairman and primary spokesperson of NAPO for 29 years. Subsequently, NAPO founded the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement as its mass association in 1990.
This movement most directly carries the torch for Malcolm X, even more so than the Nation of Islam which made him famous. In one of the most amazing and largely ignored victories for the Black Liberation movement in recent decades, Chokwe Lumumba was elected as mayor of the city of Jackson, Mississippi on May 21, 2013. Let that soak in. A man who founded the Malcolm X Center at Wayne State University when he was a law student there…a man who defended countless revolutionaries and political prisoners in the courts of his colonizers…a man who helped to found the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America…this man became the mayor of a major United States city in the most racist of those 50 states. How did he do it? And what lessons can the rest of us learn from him in our efforts to improve our communities and keep there from being new Mike Browns and Freddie Grays?
The idea to run Chokwe Lumumba for city council in 2009 and then for mayor in 2013 was a part of what is called the Jackson-Kush Plan to win self-determination, participatory democracy, and economic justice in Black majority counties in Mississippi. Without using a lot of big words, this plan developed by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement is basically that Black people should take control of the areas where we are the majority of the population. Because there is no one who can stop us from doing so. The Achilles Heel of the United States system of white supremacy is that they set up their system as a democracy. Majority always rules in a democracy, if they choose to. We can choose to use our colonizers’ system against them, for our benefit.
If you live in a majority Black city or county and the people organize themselves to function as a group then you can take control of the budgets. The people can decide where the tax dollars go, who works in government positions including police and district attorney and judges, what the school curriculum is, so on and so forth. The basic idea is very simple.
In places like Ferguson and Baltimore where more than 60% of the population is Black, what excuse do we have for allowing other people to dominate us to such a degree that a Mike Brown or Freddie Gray can happen in the first place? Especially when we’ve been blessed with a man as great as Malcolm X to teach us the benefits of doing for self; when people inspired by him like Huey Newton and others have taught us that Power is always in the hands of the People; what excuse do we have?
Frederick Douglass told us in 1857!!!!, that “power concedes nothing without a demand; it never did, and it never will.” We can take back the power over our own lives and our own communities. There is no need for us to ask anyone else to give us justice.
Making this kind of a stand would start with us deciding that we are going to value our own lives. In order for us to TAKE control over own communities and our institutions and our dollars, we have to first believe that we deserve to have that level of power and self sufficiency. We have to love ourselves and each other enough to do whatever it takes to make this kind of a plan work. If we can’t stop slaughtering each other in the streets like pigs, then how in the hell are we gonna take power from the most powerful country on the planet, and give that power back to ourselves?
When Kendrick said this he was absolutely right:
“I wish somebody would look in our neighborhood knowing that it’s already a situation, mentally, where it’s f—ked up. What happened to [Michael Brown] should’ve never happened. Never. But when we don’t have respect for ourselves, how do we expect them to respect us? It starts from within. Don’t start with just a rally, don’t start from looting — it starts from within.”
Picture this: we’re in an auditorium. The seats are full of American Africans, 60 of them. 30 white people are on stage. And sitting on a table, on the stage, is Freedom. The American Africans are asking the white people to take Freedom off the table and throw it into the audience. The white people are refusing. The people in the audience are getting upset. In their frustration, they start fighting each other. One of them gets killed in the fighting. Some of the white people in police uniforms come down off the stage and beat up the audience members in the process of arresting the killer. And this same scenario keeps playing itself out for 40 years. All the while, the audience members could choose to just walk up on the stage and take Freedom.
This is what has happened in America’s inner cities since the collapse of the Black Power movement 40 years ago. How long are we gonna stay stuck in this cycle? As long as we can condemn Diddy or anyone else for insisting that we need to love ourselves and hold ourselves accountable for fixing our condition then we will never get freedom or justice or equality.
Over the weekend, at the Malcolm X Festival in Atlanta, The Last Poets performed “Niggers Are Scared of Revolution.” Damn right.