Burning Spear News
The struggle over the anti-African mural is a 600-year struggle
Chairman Omali Yeshitela and members of SNCC after tearing down the anti-African mural, brings it to the black community.
The following is a transcribed speech which was made at the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement’s (InPDUM) Sunday Rally on July 7, 2016 by Chairman of the African People’s Socialist Party, Omali Yeshitela.
Currently, InPDUM St. Petersburg is engaged in a fierce struggle with the State to control the replacement art of an anti-African mural which was torn down from the wall of St. Petersburg City Hall by the Chairman in 1966, fifty years ago.
Here, Chairman Omali takes us through the important historical context which is important in understanding why the mural struggle in critical.
This part two in a series of four articles.
It was a nasty, dirty situation that happened. What you have to remember is that Africans were not wanting to leave Africa. Many Africans would literally jump off the ship or throw children off the ship rather than have the children going into slavery.
And sometimes, when an African got sick on the ship, for fear that this African would make the others sick too, and therefore the persons who owned us would lose money, they would throw that African overboard.
Schools of sharks literally learned to follow these ships across the Atlantic Ocean knowing that they were going to eat well from Africans who either jumped off or who got sick and died and then were thrown off by their captors.
This is something that was happening every day. You cannot imagine the amount of traffic in African human beings that was going on. It’s like you go on an airplane today, and sometimes they come in too early and they say they have to go into a holding pattern because there’s no place for them to park––that’s how it was when they were coming in to pick up Africans.
It was ongoing traffic with kidnapped African people. So millions of African people were kidnapped from Africa in that fashion.
The brutal history of demoralizing Africans
Then the issue, once we were captured, was to break the spirit, to break the will of Africans so that they could work us for nothing. It was savage treatment, and it took extreme violence to make that happen.
It was the worst kind of brutality. When you see the police kill Eric Garner, one of the striking things about him was not just that they choked him to death, but how once when they had him on the ground, how they were dragging his head into the concrete.
We see this all the time, how they handcuff dead bodies. This has a beginning, has an origin that goes much, much further back in time since Mike Brown was killed on August 9, 2014.
There’s an incredible history of brutality. It was absolutely necessary for them to break the spirit, break the will of African people, to divorce us from any connection with our past and to try to create a new creature; to try to take away our names and our culture because it became an important factor of control.
They would punish Africans who actually spoke in our native languages and to try to separate Africans who spoke the same language so that we have to rely on the language of the oppressor in order to communicate with each other.
Many Africans went through Haiti on their way to other places in the Americas and to this land as well.
“Primitive accumulation of capital”
Of course, this land was being stolen from Indigenous peoples here. Near-genocide was committed against the whole population here. This is a part of what went into what Karl Marx would call a “primitive accumulation of capital.”
This is the start-up money. When starting a business, you have to have some start-up capital, this was the start-up capital—selling black people and taking the land of the Indigenous people here.
There are movies where the so-called “Indians” would capture or kill a white man and were supposed to be scalping the white man.
But what they don’t tell you is that this process of what they call ‘scalping’ is something that was started by Europeans, by white people. To take the top of the head of one of the Indigenous people was evidence that you had killed one.
They had a process, they had a policy in some places, of eradication of the Indigenous population.
In California, I believe it was $25 for every scalp that a white man brought in to the government. There were tons of heads of Indigenous people that were being taken in. This was evidence that they had been killed, a part of the policy of eradication that they were doing with Indigenous people here.
The conditions in our community’s today is a continuation of a war that started 600 years ago
This is the history that we are talking about. Our identities were also being removed from us. We end up with names like Jocelyn, Thomas and Miller on this side. And on the other side, in Africa too, we’re being renamed in the same fashion.
So it was an incredible war that was being made against us, and it has never stopped. That’s the critical thing. It has never stopped.
When you look around you—even if you think you might be having a good time in St. Petersburg—and see what is happening to African people in Congo, Guinea, Sudan, Somalia and some other place in the world, you are looking at a continuation of a war that started 600 years ago.
When you see what happened in Baton Rouge or when you see the latest murder that just happened someplace, it’s the continuation of the same struggle. You can’t point to a time in the history in this country that it ended.
Since the first assault on Africa 600 years ago, you cannot point to a time in history when the war against African people has ended, either here or anyplace else on the planet Earth. That’s the reality that we are confronted with.
When we talk about that mural, it’s not just about an incident that happened on December 29, 1966. It has its origin in a war that has been ongoing against African people.
Our opinions of each other is something that is a reflection of the history of the relationship we’ve had to white power.
I mean, just think about living in a situation—and it’s a literal truth, even in my lifetime—where a white man can come to your house and make you sit on the porch while he goes in and has your wife or your daughters.
This is a part of the history. Because once somebody owns you, they do what they want to you, just like property. You’re just like a cow. That’s why they branded us.
That relationship has not ended. It’s still going on, even if you can vote for Hillary Clinton, that relationship has not ended.
And this is the struggle that we are involved in—it’s been this ongoing resistance throughout history in this country.
The struggles of our people have taken on two particular tendencies. On the one hand, there is a tiny sector of the population that has decided that the best thing to do is try to take on the white man’s ways—to accommodate this power—because there’s nothing really that we can do about it, and sometimes we’ve been convinced that that’s the best way.
That is what has been defined to us as being most civilized. You’ve got those of us who try hard to be embraced by the white man and embraced by the system.
They do everything that has been told to us will make us successful in the white man’s world. They get a good education, register to vote, act more like the white man—talk like the white man talks, walk like the white man—in order to be accepted.
Historically, you see that’s one trend and that trend has also been associated with Africans who have advantages. They were the ones who worked in the house. They were the ones who worked closer to the white man and got various privileges as a consequence of that. And they learned how to act like the white man.
Malcolm X talks about it when he talks about the difference in the house Negro and the field Negro.
And then there was that other tendency, which is a natural, normal tendency of just wanting to be free!
You can’t be free on somebody else’s terms. If somebody can set the terms for what your freedom looks like, you are not free!
Wanting to be free is not "separatist"
There has been a sector all the time that has said that we want to be free, we want to be independent, we want to have our own government. White power often refers to that tendency as being separatist.
That is a defining factor for them, whether you want to be with them, or you don’t want to be with them. Whether you want to be like the slave master and with the slave master or not. That is the defining factor.
So if you don’t want to be with or like them, then you are a ‘separatist.’
At the same time, you have a situation where a group of people have stolen this land. There’s not a single inch of territory in what we call the Americas that was not taken at gunpoint.
Even now, Indigenous people are suffering on these concentration camps that they call ‘reservations’ as a consequence.
When the white people fought against the ones who sent them here to loot the land for them, the British monarchy, they declared that they were going to keep it all for themselves as opposed to sending it back to England.
“We ain’t sending the king nothing!” Why send anything back to the king, right?
So they signed a declaration of independence. “We’re gonna take it all for ourselves.”
They didn’t call it a ‘declaration of separation.’ They called it a declaration of independence!
When it comes to us, however, because we want to be free, and they define who you are based on whether or not you want to be with them, they call you a separatist.
They are fighting for independence and freedom but you are a separatist, and you’re some kind of racial demon because you want to be in control of your own life, your own future.