Burning Spear News
The Ballot and the Bullet: Putting self-determination back on the ballot
Photo: Panelists of the Black is Back Coalition’s 4th Electoral Campaign School: Vice-Chair Lisa Davis (top left), Chairman Omali Yeshitela (top center), Sister Tsigereda (top right), Black Alliance for Peace’s Ajamu Baraka (bottom left), Louisiana United International’s Belinda Parker-Brown (middle center) and Secretary Elikya Ngoma (bottom right).
United States—On June 13 and 14, 2020, The Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations (BIBC) held our 4th Electoral Campaign School, themed “The Ballot and The Bullet: Putting Self-Determination on the Ballot!”
The Electoral Campaign School has been institutionalized by the Black is Back Coalition as a process to bring everyday poor and working class African people into the electoral arena and as another front of the struggle for African liberation.
The Campaign School was originally scheduled to take place on April 10-12, 2020 in St. Louis, Missouri, but like most other events, it was affected by the colonial virus, coronavirus. Instead, the Coalition held a special webinar summing up the coronavirus and its effects on the black community and rescheduled the school to take place as a webinar in June.
Bringing African people back into political life
The Electoral Campaign School began with an overview by the Black is Back Coalition’s Chair Omali Yeshitela. He is also the Chairman of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) and represents the APSP as an organizational member of the coalition itself.
The Chairman explained that the whole electoral process is held at the expense of the African poor and working class community; the U.S. first jailed and killed off all of our leaders and then put forth their own candidates as options for the masses to “vote” for. The coalition, under the Chairman’s leadership, put forth the Electoral Campaign School to contend with this process.
In his overview to the school, Chairman Omali stated:
“We are taking all of these issues that the bourgeoisie shot off the ballot, that they assassinated off the ballot when they killed Malcolm [X], when they killed [Martin Luther] King [Jr.], destroyed the Black Panther Party; what would be our program was knocked out... What we are doing with this Coalition is bringing people back into political life… It is a part of the process of developing a revolutionary national democratic program that’s absolutely necessary to collect people to pull the [African] Nation together, in order to forward our interests in that process…”
This brilliant overview was followed by a powerful panel discussion titled “Colonial Virus and the political crisis of imperialism.” The panel featured New York state assemblyman, Charles Barron; the BIBC’s Vice Chair, Lisa Davis and her guest Sister Tsigereda; Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) representative and 2016 Green Party vice presidential candidate, Ajamu Baraka; representative of Harlem Fight Back Against the War at Home and Abroad, Nellie Bailey; Louisiana United International (LUI) representative, Belinda Parker-Brown; and Chairman Omali Yeshitela.
This panel was a summation of how the colonial coronavirus has exposed the colonial and parasitic capitalist nature of this social system as well as the deepening crisis of imperialism.
Sister Belinda Parker-Brown made a moving presentation about the African petty bourgeoisie who build their names off of the backs of the African poor and working class only to sell us out as soon as they get into positions of power.
The panelists Charles Barron and Chairman Omali Yeshitela, in particular, talked about the need for African people to capture revolutionary State power.
The program continued with presentations from the different chairs of the coalition’s working groups, which included Chair of the Black Community Control of the Police Working Group, Diop Olugbala; Chair of the Free All Political Prisoners Working Group, Ralph Poynter and guest speaker Jihad Abdulmumit who represents the Jericho Movement; Chair of the Education Working Group, Betty Davis; guest speaker, Brother Ricardo Adams and Chair of the Health Care Working Group, Vice Chair Lisa Davis.
Diop Olugbala laid out the difference between the demand for Black Community Control of the Police and the media-popularized demand to “Defund the Police.” He said:
“To simply call for defunding the cops would be selling the people short…It’s clear that the people are ready to fight, ready to resist, however the strategic goals and objectives behind the resistance—we have to have organization in place to win unity with such goals and objectives amongst the broadest sectors of our community. This is why our demands are so important.”
Point three of the BIBC platform defines Black Community Control of the Police succinctly: “We demand the immediate withdrawal of all domestic military occupation forces from Black communities. This democratic demand assumes the ability of Black people to mobilize for our own security and to redefine the role of the police so that it no longer functions as an agency imposed on us from the outside.”
Intervening in the electoral process
The second day of the conference was just as powerful as the first, as it was filled with a lot of training on how to actually run for office and other ways the black community can intervene in the electoral process.
The day began with a brief opening statement by Chairman Omali Yeshitela, followed by a panel titled “How to Beat the Machine: key aspects of running for office!” The speakers of this panel were Charles Barron; St. Petersburg, Florida city council candidate Akilé Anai; Campaign Manager for Akilé Anai, Chimurenga Selembao of the APSP; and St. Louis, Missouri alderman Jesse Todd.
Each of the speakers pulled from their personal experiences to speak to the topics of fundraising, campaign strategy, message development, “get out the vote” strategy, campaign staff/team, technology, voter registration and education, as well as precincts and opposition research.
Comrade Akilé also made a separate presentation, titled “Campaigning during Quarantine,” which spoke to how African people can still wage successful campaigns during COVID-19. She explained the need to integrate online outreach, phonebanking, fundraising and other such tactics into the campaign process:
“You’re gonna still have 'boots on the ground,' but there’s gonna be an element of it where, when we’re dealing with quarantine, dealing with this pandemic and the whole question of 'social distancing,' the whole question of being 'on the ground' becomes more limited. So we have to identify different ways to get the word out, without being out in person all the time.”
Using referendums and recalls
The final portion of the Electoral Campaign School was a set of presentations by members of the BIBC’s Steering Committee and discussion points in which they have provided expertise over the last few years:
Brother Zaki Baruti, representative of the Universal African People’s Organization (UAPO), made a presentation on proportional representation. Proportional representation is the idea that the percentage of the African community in a particular city, state and the country overall should be reflected in the percentage of Africans in office for that particular city, state and the country.
Brother Khalid Raheem, representative of the New Afrikan Independence Party (NAIP), made a presentation on election laws and of NAIP itself. He explained the paraphrased quote from Mao Zedong “politics is war without violence…and war is politics with violence.” He also presented on the opportunities and limitations of electoral politics, examples of election laws in different cities, what we should look for in a candidate and things we need to know if we want to run for public office.
Brother Kamm Howard of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (NCOBRA) and activist Reverend Edward Pinkney made presentations on the processes for referendums and recalls, respectively.
Pinkney detailed his personal experience in successfully using the recall process, including being imprisoned for two years for petitioning to recall a Benton Harbor, Michigan mayor.
While explaining how African people can use the ballot measures to forward the Black is Back Coalition’s 19-Point Platform, Brother Kamm made it clear that the core contradiction of the electoral process is the colonial and neocolonial question:
“When we talk about ballot measures, we are really talking about legitimacy in our community. If we had legitimate leaders, there would be no need for ballot measures; there would be no need for some of these struggles that we are engaged in.”
Forward to the March on the White House!
Finally, the Electoral Campaign School ended with a closing statement by our Chairman Omali Yeshitela, who not only appreciated the BIBC’s Steering Committee and other guest speakers for their participation, but also the audience for tuning in on both days. Most importantly, he made the call for African and all other people who stand in solidarity with the struggle for Black Power to attend the Coalition’s upcoming March on the White House on November 6-8, 2020 in Washington, D.C.:
“This should be the defining mobilization of African people in this era. This has to be the mobilization that gives definition and significance to everything that’s been happening since we’ve been assaulted by the colonial virus and then subsequently that has happened with the uprisings and protests. We have to provide coherence.”
Black is Back!
Forward to Washington, D.C.!
For more information on the Black is Back Coalition, including how to become a member and join the March on the White House, visit BlackIsBackCoalition.org.