Burning Spear News
Powerful re-opening of the Oakland Uhuru House for Commemoration Weekend!
Apr 26, 2014
OAKLAND, CA—On April 4-6, 2014 the Uhuru Movement’s Oakland Steering Committee held a series of events to mark the anniversaries of the deaths of Lil’ Bobby Hutton and Martin Luther King Jr. who were killed in April of 1968 just two days apart at the height of the U.S. government’s reign of terror on the Black Power Movement of the 1960s.
The purpose of the events was to re-open the Oakland Uhuru House African community center for events and programs led by and for the colonized and impoverished African community. Throughout the years, the Oakland Uhuru House has served as the African People’s Socialist Party’s international office.
Commemoration Weekend Oakland is part of the long-term goal to build political and economic power in the hands of the African community and connect it to the worldwide struggle of African people for revolutionary organization and to reclaim Africa and all of its resources.
The Friday night movie, “Eyes on the Prize: The Black Power Years,” kicked off the weekend. The film, part of a series, presents the struggle of Huey P. Newton, the founder of the Black Panther Party, in the early days of educating the African working class in Oakland about “knowing their rights” and standing up to police intimidation and harassment. The film also shows the courageous struggle in Brownsville, New York around African community control of the schools.
Following the film, attendees engaged in lively discussion about building programs at the Uhuru House including drumming lessons and "history night" for all age groups, arts and crafts workshops and spelling bees.
Health is Freedom Day takes health in our own hands
The second event, “Health is Freedom!” Day took place on Saturday, April 4 from noon to 4pm.
John Thomas, the coordinator of the TyRon Lewis Community Gym in St. Petersburg, Florida, was the emcee of the program. He also provided a history of the African People’s Education and Defense Fund (APEDF), its mission, its board of directors and its programs, including the Uhuru Jiko Kitchen and the community garden.
“APEDF is not a charity model, but an organization founded and led by the Uhuru Movement,” stated John Thomas. Thomas told his personal story and how the organization transformed his own life.
He spoke passionately about the need to bring the practical knowledge of health and fitness to the African masses to overturn the rampant diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity in the community.
“All illnesses can be cured with exercise and proper nutrition,” stated Thomas.
The health fair services offered were blood pressure, glucose and body mass index screenings led by the nursing students of Samuel Merritt University who enthusiastically contributed their time and energy to the fair and are interested in volunteering on an ongoing basis.
Other speaker featured was Acta Non Verba founder Kelly Carlisle, a farmer in East Oakland interested in contributing her skills to the garden at the Uhuru House.
Following Carlisle was Zumba instructor Linda Smith, also known as Little Tweet, who got everyone out of their seats to dance.
Health practitioners on the program included Marlee I Mystic, conscious sound coach, doula and childbirth advocate, on the importance of taking control of childbirth.
John Thomas led a boxing aerobics demo to the sounds of the Commodores’ “All Night Long.”
O.M. Evans conducted a class on sound therapy and sound yoga and Le Owens presented his knowledge of quantum meditation.
In the afternoon, health fair participants, under the leadership of community garden coordinator Steve Swaggard, rolled up their sleeves to plant collard green and mustard seeds as well as lettuce, tomato and broccoli plants for the re-opening of the Uhuru House community garden.
Commemoration Day raised up Lil’ Bobby Hutton and MLK
The Sunday Commemoration Day event opened up with Uhuru Movement organizer Sealli Moyenda singing with conviction and passion the song “This train is bound for freedom, this train!”
Next on the agenda was a solidarity statement by African People’s Solidarity Committee (APSC) member Maureen Wagener calling on white people to be a part of building a new economy and uniting with the African call for reparations from the white community.
A statement from Mexican liberation organization Union del Barrio expressed the deep unity of the Mexican liberation struggle with the aims of the African People’s Socialist Party’s strategy for liberation.
Performers included local hip hop artist Dante Clark aka Lil’ Skitz, comedian Preach Tubb and also Little Tweet came back to perform her own dance.
The keynote presentation was given by Omali Yeshitela, Chairman of the African Socialist International who discussed the significance of Lil’ Bobby Hutton, who joined the Black Panther Party when he was 14 years old. Lil’ Bobby was gunned down two years later by the Oakland Police Department—just two days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Chairman Omali stated, “The questions we are concerned with are larger than two individuals. The significance of these two figures in history was that they were involved in the struggle of our people for freedom.”
He explained how King’s birthday is celebrated nationally as a cover up for how he was murdered by the U.S. government after he had come out against the U.S. war in Vietnam and in unity with the people who were struggling for freedom around the world.
He said, “Our oppressors will give us a holiday to try to deal with the fact that they killed the person who is trying to lead the struggle to win our freedom. That is supposed to keep us happy, but we don’t have the freedom that MLK stood and died for.”
Yeshitela presented the political and economic basis for the Civil Rights Movement and the struggle that emerged led by African people for power and self-determination.
He detailed the terror that African people faced known as the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), a program of counterinsurgency that militarily defeated the movement.
He underlined the fundamental problem that African people face—the historic attack on Africa and the necessity of building revolutionary organization led by the African working class to build dual and contending power and to unite Africa and African people worldwide to reclaim the stolen resources of Africa.
Yeshitela rallied the audience at the Oakland Uhuru House to see the change in the balance of power, the “uneasy equilibrium,” and to be a part of tipping the balance towards a bright future where Africans can create a new life.
The Oakland Steering Committee welcomes participants into the work of APEDF, InPDUM, Uhuru Foods & Pies of Black Star Industries and the Uhuru House community garden. For more info, contact [email protected]