Police Violence and Militarization Town Hall (4/4)
In the final part of the of the Police Violence and Militarization Town Hall discussion hosted by South Organizing Against Racism (SOAR), participants debate what kind of political strategy the movement should adopt
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Very powerful statement.
Over here in the back.
TRE MURPHY, BALTIMORE ALGEBRA PROJECT: Yeah. So I want to put something in context just really quickly, which is this idea that we’re talking about a political machine as if the system works perfectly. Right? And I say that to say that long-term it is definitely a good strategy to figure out how we build a political independent party. But short-term being us voting or us supporting a candidate doesn’t at all, in any way, shape, or form, help the situations that communities of color face right now. Right?
And this idea that policy follows culture, we have to remember that policy follows culture. Right? And so, in order for us to really make headway, change, like, we’ve got a Civil Rights Act. It didn’t mean that black people could vote, right? So the policy must follow the culture. We have to begin at the grassroots level changing the culture and saying to folks that, hey, it’s a good idea, speaking to ordinary community folks saying, hey, it’s a good idea for us to build a political machine long-term, right? But we have to have community folks behind us.
And I think that you said it perfectly when you talked about the leaders can’t be so far ahead of the community that the community is left behind, because at the end of the day, if we’re talking about not perpetuating the same system of accountability where politicians are supposed to be held accountable to us and they’re not, we need to, the leaders need to also, the organizers need also to be about that same system of accountability of making sure that the community is standing behind them and that they are adhering to the wishes of the community.
So I’m not saying that we shouldn’t think about building a political machine, but I’m saying that our communities at this point, it’s not at that stage. It’s going to take a lot of debate. It’s going to take a lot of conversations. It’s going to take a lot of understanding.
I think one of the state greatest things that Ella Baker said was this idea that it’s not enough to just know your history; you must also understand it. The act of understanding only comes if you talk to ordinary community members, have them debate, have them have them set a process in place that they fall behind. And then the organizers’ roles is to adhere to the process that community members have fallen in place.
But we cannot talk about being a part of a system that was never originally set up for any of us. Like, and we heard it said here over and over, time and time again, the Constitution wasn’t built for us. Let’s be very clear about it. According to the Constitution, we are three-fifths of a person, right? And let’s start there. And so we need to really acknowledge the fact that it takes one, the first step in anything is for us to go back to our community, respectable communities, to begin to have these conversations, come to common understanding.
And then to your question, you talked about how do we begin to sustain political power. I think that it comes, stems from this idea of education, right, and who controls our education. One of the things that, one of the greatest things that Malcolm X said is that education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs with those who prepare for today. Right? And so this idea that we begin to teach our own people, because if–you get out of a person what you put into him. So if you’re constantly putting into them this idea that your history is only about slavery, only about Jim Crow, only about segregation, you don’t tell them the other half, that you come from kings and queens, that you come from a rich history of folks that have struggled, that built monuments, that established civilizations to govern themselves, that you come from a rich history as well, that you are breeded as a prince, as a princess, that you come from a long line of royalty blood, then you’re ultimately going to get out of them the same system that the history books teaches us, that we’re not worth anything, that we’re only three-fifths of a person.
So the key, so the solution to maintaining political power is ensuring that we are teaching our education that education and the history books is not so tampered with by the system of white supremacy that our young people cannot see past more than what the history books teach them. So we have to begin to hold our own history.
JAY: Okay. Hold on one second. You have to have a microphone. Over here, please.
UNIDENTIFIED: To a earlier /stɛrz/ they asked about the electorial approach. I’m a believer in the electorial approach. One of the reasons why: because the way that–we can’t fight the system so–we can fight the system, but you can also fight the system from within, knowing the system and knowing the rules and knowing how it operates. And so you can have that system work into your favor.
And we are–. (Excuse me.) If we was to use the grassroots approach and hold our elected officials accountable, if you go into the local level, into your district offices, and you tell them, these are our demands and this is what we want you to stand for, the reason why this is coming to a point where we don’t have any type of action: because where is the community? Where is the community when you sit here and say, okay, we’re Baltimore, the Greenmount community, where is that organization, and where you’re saying, okay, our list of demands of here, and we can pull all together all these different neighborhoods so we say, okay, these are our concerns from this area, and then we all come together on an electorial and vote on what we will present to the council so we can vote on? We need to have some kind type of agenda so when somebody come and say, what are your demands, we all know what it is and we can have it voted on.
Now, if you’re talking about money, economics, that’s where you go into the district office once again, you tell these public officials to vote or to let’s go ahead and create youth opportunities. Put the funding back inside of the community. Give these youth something to do. Then you also say, alright, let’s get these afterschool programs, let’s go ahead. We have the ability to go inside these hearings and see what they’re putting our money towards. You could say, get the appropriation and either go into economics, the appropriation to go inside a small business. Stop giving tax credits to the large corporations and disenfranchising mom-and-pops, the people that’s inside the community. They know the people. It’s time that we take the power back. And we’re going to go into it on a grassroots level, and a real grassroots level, back into our communities.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. Hold on one second. Okay. Right over here.
UNIDENTIFIED: I think the question that was on the table is: how do you give the power back to the community? And I think that’s to make the people aware that they have the power. And to do that I think it’s some very simple tactics that are being overlooked. Like, right now there’s all these mass movements of protest, but people don’t have a hub or organization to go back to to support them after it’s over. So after the hashtag protests, after the first week, you’re out there. Who do you go to?
But these places and these people are there. I think that’s the good thing about it, in the first place because you’re able to meet other people who are able to support your cause or able to say, hey, we have this spoken-word group and we talk about mass incarceration, and this is how we get it out, and you all can come back to us, or we have this organic farming organization, and we’re out here. But how many people are actually engaging in those discussions afterward?
So I think the thing is we need to stop looking at it, putting the power into other people’s hands and taking responsibility, because we say we, we, like, people need to do this or they need to do that. But everyone here has the responsibility to walk outside. You see somebody, you could say hello, you could ask them how their day is, and you could spark up a conversation and ask them just about the world in general. And I think those are the first steps to building community. And then you see who actually supports you and who doesn’t support you. There’s places that you shouldn’t shop in. If they ask you for your bag, maybe you shouldn’t go there, because they don’t believe in you as a human being and they don’t think you’re humane, or if they have bulletproof glass, like, hey, I’m not going to shop here until you get rid of that. So I think we just need to come from a human perspective instead of thinking about Democrats/Republicans first.
DESVARIEUX: And start making connections ourselves, like you were saying, in very small ways.
Okay. I have so many questions, and we literally only have a few minutes. So I’m just going to have time to take two more comments.
I’ve been waiting for 22 minutes. [crosstalk]
DESVARIEUX: No. I want to–I know this woman has been here for a while, so I’d like to get her as well. She’s been waiting for quite a long time too.
UNIDENTIFIED: Hi. No. I just wanted to sort backtrack the conversation to what Professor Morgan was talking about in terms of the historical context. We’ve been talking a lot about history, the imperative word being history. We leave out–I think it’s important to–and this might be my bias as a educator and artist, but we live in a white, capitalist patriarchy; we don’t just live in a system of racism. We also live in a system of capitalism and patriarchy which oppresses women of color and people of color equally, if not more. Our intersecting identities have been forgotten. And often when we think about the histories and the narratives of resistance, we don’t talk about women of color. So I wanted to bring that to the forefront.
/ˌzɜrnoʊˈhɜrstɪd/ in 1954 talked about the problems with Brown v. Board. And she said, number one, that it would cancel out black male teachers; number two, that it would take away black leaders in the schools; and number three, that it would send a message that we don’t believe that our culture is strong enough for own children to be in our own schools. And she was ahead of her time. She was correct. Her male counterparts were in not on board. Thurgood Marshall, Richard Wright all disagreed with her. But as we can see from her prophecy, this is true.
She also alluded to the fact that we would see a lot more mental health issues in the black community, a lot more suicides, a lot more in-school suspensions, the terror of the black male rapist would come up with white female teachers. And so we now we have–I think it’s important for us to think about the privileges that we bring to the table in terms of thinking about education as a tool of liberation, because our ancestors, our foremothers and forefathers, use education as a tool to create community. And without–and I’m not talking about schooling; I’m talking about education. So just those simple rethinking about what education should be.
Also I think when we think about these liberation movements, such as with Marcus Garvey and Amy Jacques Garvey, we also have to think about the way that they structured their demands, because even though their demands were valid, they cannot necessarily be copied and pasted to 2015. We have a new set of issues, right? There’s a lot more gray in the world than there was for some of our foremothers and forefathers. So we have to think more critically about this.
And then the last thing I wanted to say is that I wanted to challenge us to not dismiss our allies, because every movement has had allies. We cannot dismiss radical white folk who’ve been a part of black power movements. We cannot dismiss radical men who’ve been a part of radical women movements. We cannot dismiss our radical gay brothers and sisters who’ve been a part of radical movements, such as James Baldwin and Audre Lorde, who’ve helped us get to these points. And if we don’t continue to create education around that in our communities, we are going to perpetuate some of the same problems. And I think that we–even within this room, even within this room, we have to be mindful of the power dynamics that we have, such that we’re not perpetuating smaller instances of internalized oppression, which I think is really critical.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. That was very insightful. Thank you very much.
Okay. We have time for one more comment. Okay. Over here in the back.
Here you are.
UNIDENTIFIED: Thank you. Okay. So what I noticed people, everybody’s been alluding to is a circular format. What are we doing to ensure that everything is circular? What is an equation? An equation is this equals that and that equals this. We need a system, we need mathematics. I think mathematics has been underrated completely in our education. We need to make sure that every step on every level is taken care of. We need to experiment, do serious studies on closed systems.
And I don’t think that we need to stay in a certain state or whatever. From circular comes spiral. Like, that’s–a growing circle is a spiral. So what we need is a platform and a formula, an equation, that shows, that includes everyone.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. Okay. Thank you. You wouldn’t happen to work with the Algebra Project?
DESVARIEUX: You mentioned mathematics.
Okay. So we are just going to get a moment from all of our panelists, just quick final words. Like, just tell us what you hope we accomplish in this session and what you hope that we’ll accomplish in the future.
KAMAU FRANKLIN, ATTORNEY AND ACTIVIST: Well, I mean, I hope, starting, that folks not only here–this was a day in which around the South in particular over 20 different cities did some protest action against police brutality and police misconduct. And most of that was led by young people who have decided to step out and do that. And so my hope is that this is a spark where we can join with those groups that have been doing stuff in Ferguson, that have been doing stuff in New York, that has been doing stuff across the country in the West Coast, and come back and do it again, actually, pick a time when we come back and we do this kind of thing again, ’cause I think only through–continually to project our power, both in the streets and in other places, will we start to win some real victories.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. Thank you, Kamau Franklin.
MARY PAT HECTOR, NAT’L YOUTH DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK YOUTH MOVE: My hope is something similar to Mr. Kamau Franklin’s, really to see how we can not only continue to have a conversation, but what we could actually do together, despite what people may believe or what they may think, how we can move forward together, or if we could work together, and how would that look and what would that look like.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. Tef Poe, what did you get out of this?
TEF POE: For me it goes back to just the situation that’s going on in my city is that we don’t have the luxury of waiting on the Democratic Party. Jay Nixon is a Democrat. Bob McCulloch is a Democrat. People say we didn’t vote. People did vote. That’s how they got in office.
So for me it just goes back to creating something new. And I don’t necessarily know what that new thing looks like, but I do know, like, if you’re in a relationship with a girl you found out she’s cheating on you, you’re not going to wait till you get the new girlfriend. You know? So I feel like we’re in a dysfunctional relationship. And I think that we could keep heading that ways to go around that, but that’s really what it is at this point.
DESVARIEUX: Got it. Paul Jay, senior editor.
JAY: It’s hard to follow that.
Just to let everybody know, first of all, thank you from The Real News for coming. We, in a month or two, are going to have a television show from seven to eight o’clock in a million houses, from Baltimore to D.C. and all the areas around. And this will be nightly, seven to eight p.m. And we want to make this conversation a conversation that tens of thousands of people are having. We’ve got to be doing investigative journalism, reporting. We’re not going to wait for anybody to investigate. And when we cover these situations, whether it’s police abuse of brutality, or whether it’s ordinary people killing ordinary people, the way that gets dehumanized on local TV, well, we’re not going to do that. And the most important thing–and I think it’s what’s happened here tonight–and what our news is going to be or is and going to be more all about is how are we going to find really effective solutions and get people engaged in making those solutions real.
So I hope you’ll let everybody know about the town hall beyond The Real News website in a couple of days. And once we’re on TV, I hope you’ll help us defeat NBC and CBS and Fox.
JAY: Alright. Good plug.
CYDNEY BROWER, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: For me, more so, my goal is to let people know that we’re here. This is not a momentary thing. This movement never ended. People were working underground since the beginning of the civil rights movement. And just because you don’t see people plastering themselves all over television does not mean that we are not working. This movement does not have an end date. And we are here and we will continue to disrupt your daily lives until we get what we deserve. Black people and brown bodies do not have the luxury of not being inconvenienced on a daily basis.
So, yes, we will shut down your streets for however long we deem necessary to get our point across. We will lock down your mouths. We will lock down your banks. We will come to your jobs. We will not spend our money where we don’t deem it necessary. And if you don’t get with the program, then you will be inconvenienced like we are day in and day out.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. Very powerful.
EDDIE CONWAY, FMR. BLACK PANTHER, BALTIMORE CHAPTER: And what I want people to take away from this is the step beyond that is work in the community, build structures, build institutions, empower your damn self.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. Nice and simple. I love it. Short and sweet.
Alright. Let’s move over here. Let’s start off with Jared.
JARED BALL, ASSOC. PROF. COMMUNICATION STUDIES, MORGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: Well, since we’re taping on Dr. King’s birthday, I would like just to shout him out by saying that we should remember and honor him as he was, not in the image she’s been ossified in by our enemies, and remember to slightly challenge what brother Franklin said.
Dr. King made the point that real leadership is not consensus-seeking but consensus-molding. So I kind of–I hear your point. And what you all did in Jackson is phenomenal. But I would on some level like for us to consider, particularly those of us who claim we already understand that these problems need new solutions, that we organize amongst ourselves first and develop some sort of advanced effort. I don’t know exactly what that is either. And I don’t want to wait for my new girlfriend.
UNIDENTIFIED: Are you married?
BALL: Happily. Happily. I just trying to riff off my man [incompr.] Easy. Easy.
But my point is is that I would like us not to be afraid to be some sort of radical vanguard of some sort of strike, and to try something else and to try something new and provide an example to bring others to catch them up to us eventually. And as Fred Hampton used to say to you, we say peace if you’re willing to fight for it. So peace, everybody. Thank you.
YUSEF BUNCHY SHAKUR, AUTHOR, COMMUNITY ORGANIZE: We kind of started this segment off actually what is unfinished. And so when you look at Malcolm, you look at the party, you look at Assata, who’s in Cuba, they’re continuing to persecute the struggle of fighting for liberation, the struggle of freeing our political prisoners, the struggle of building our communities, liberated zones, what we call restoring the neighborhood back to the hood, having boots on the ground, being able to empower young men and women in our community, but also our brothers and sisters that’s in these dungeons, that’s in these prisons, going back in there and pulling them out.
But more importantly, you know, we said a lot of great things, but it’s important that we do a lot of great things.
SHAKUR: We said a lot of great things, but we’ve got to do a lot of great things.
DESVARIEUX: Got it. Got it.
Okay. Nelini Stamp.
NELINI STAMP, CODIRECTOR, RISE UP: Yes. Well, thanks to The Real News for having me and us here.
I think going along the lines of where we started and what we’re talking about, I–what I didn’t hear, though, today was talking about the victories that do happen. There are a lot of victories that people who are struggling out there, who are fighting, there are independent political candidates, there are candidates that have done some radical things out there. They might be small, but we’ve got to start celebrating those. And we’ve really got to start owning that, too, because that is something that–you know, we talk about education. It is about the history. But it’s also right now. I learn every day that there’s something we are–at the same time that we’re losing, we’re also winning, which is a weird situation, but it’s still good. That means we’re struggling, right? So I really want us to lift up that.
And what the sister said over here when we were talking about different camps and different bases, I’m just surprised that we didn’t really talk about Assata just until right now, we didn’t talk about Ella Baker or Diane Nash, who were very important to the movements. So I just want to honor those sisters who came before me and gave me what it is to be here today.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. Really great final words.
That’s going to do it for us here at The Real News. I’m Jessica Desvarieux. And I’d like to thank all of our guests and our audience members. And as I said before, we’re going to be continuing this discussion. We’re going to have a series of these town halls. So please, if you’re in the area, reach out to us. We’d love to see you here.
Thank you for watching The Real News Network.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.