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Burning Spear News

Uhuru organizer speaks out on why the struggle with Obama 

On Friday, August 1st I led a contingent of the Uhuru Movement into Barack Obama’s town hall meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida to raise the question, “what about the black community, Obama?” Without the benefit of a big media budget, our organization attempted to bring the serious issues experienced by African working class people across this country into the national political debate.

These issues include the targeting of African and Latino communities with predatory “sub-prime” mortgages – a scheme that has made millions for people like Obama’s chief financial advisor Penny Pritzker, while stripping black families of billions of dollars, the greatest loss of wealth our community has suffered since being brought in chains to this country. We also challenged Obama to take a stand against the police shootings of unarmed African people, and explain why he has publicly defended the judge’s acquittal of the NYC police who murdered Sean Bell.

He has said that he cannot speak out on behalf of those who have been historically oppressed for fear of offending other people. Yet in Miami, he promised the Jewish community, which considers itself a historically oppressed community, that he supports turning all of Jerusalem over to Israeli control, despite the internationally enforced sharing of that city with the Palestinians. When Obama speaks to black audiences, he attacks us, attributing our community’s poverty, not to systemic oppression, but to bad culture and lack of work ethic.

Barack Obama has criticized African fathers for abandoning our children, although a recent study showed that black fathers stay more involved with their children after a split from the mother than white fathers. And Obama says nothing of the unjust imprisonment of 1 in 9 black men of child-bearing age, the overwhelming majority of whom are locked up on minor drug or other non-violent economic violations stemming from conditions of desperate poverty. He has failed to achieve any meaningful program of economic development for the African community. In speaking to a group of black legislators, Obama said “a good economic development plan for our community would be if we make sure folks weren’t throwing their garbage out of their cars.”

Barack Obama wants to increase military spending and praised Clinton for abolishing AFDC and welfare. He has reversed his position opposing the death penalty and speaks out against reparations. He wants to escalate the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and has threatened Venezuela and Iran with military aggression. He has upheld the FISA, supporting wire-tapping and government spying on citizens. He receives unprecedented financial backing from Wall Street. His close advisors and potential cabinet members include war criminal Richard Clarke, Tri-lateral commission founder Zbigniev Brzezinski, Madeleine ‘it’s worth the price of 1 million dead Iraqi children’ Albright, and Free Trade advocates Jason Furman and Austan Goolsbee.

Some argue that we must support Obama or else we are supporting McCain. We in the Uhuru Movement don’t believe our community should restrict our political options to a choice between one white ruling class party or another. In fact, the black community’s most recent experiences in the U.S. electoral arena have resulted not only in the Republican Party’s theft of our votes, but prior to that we suffered some of the worst attacks on our community at the hands of the Democratic Party administration of William Jefferson Clinton, who put 100,000 more police on our streets to murder our people, privatized the prisons to exploit our unpaid labor, and discontinued the public subsidies for impoverished children and families that had been won by African people as a concession to our movement of the 1960s.

African people’s experiences with these last several elections and the desperate conditions facing our community have created a willingness by our people to seek independent political alternatives. In response to this crisis, the white rulers put forward Barack Obama – a pied piper taking African people back into clutches of the Democratic Party. If anyone looks seriously at the positions, programs and advisors of Barack Obama, they will see that he does not stand for any kind of real change, but for the defense of the same old status quo, with a new face. America is in an economic crisis and the white ruling class hopes to save itself by deepening the exploitation of African people in the U.S. and on the continent of Africa, where the world’s biggest reserves of oil and precious minerals lie. How better to do it than with an African face at the head of state?

Our success as a people requires that we achieve our own independent political agenda. African people’s votes should be contingent on the willingness of a candidate to support and fight for that agenda. The International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement has invited Barack Obama, John McCain and Cynthia McKinney to attend our annual convention on September 27-28 in St. Petersburg, Florida to clarify their position on the question, “what about the black community?’ Based on their response, we will consider endorsement of a U.S. presidential candidate.

Diop Olugbala is the International Organizer for the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement

"What about the black community, Obama?" 

ST. PETERSBURG, FL — On Friday, August 1, the Barack Obama presidential campaign hit a serious bump in a St. Petersburg, Florida town hall meeting as members of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) challenged Obama on his unwillingness to speak to the interests of the African community.

While demonstrators outside chanted “Obama, McCain, its the same game,” InPDUM members inside raised a banner that read “What about the black community, Obama?”

InPDUM International Organizer Diop Olugbala challenged Obama asking, “In the face of the numerous attacks that are made against the African community or the black community by the same U.S. government that you aspire to lead — and we are talking about attacks like the subprime mortgage that you spoke of that wasn't just a general ambiguous kind of phenomena, but a phenomena that targeted the African community and Latino community; attacks like the killing of Sean Bell by the New York police department and Javon Dawson right here in St. Petersburg by the St. Petersburg police, and Jena 6 and Hurricane Katrina, and the list goes on. In the face of all these attacks that are clearly being made on the African community, why is it that you have not had the ability to not one time speak to the interests and even speak on the behalf of the oppressed and exploited African community or black community in this country?”

After stammering, Obama made the claim that he had addressed all of those issues with public statements, but that he just may not have spoken out in the way desired.

It is well known that he did make a statement after the acquittals of the police who pumped 50 bullets into Sean Bell’s car on his wedding day stating that the unjust verdict needed to be respected.

On the U.S. government’s leaving African people for days to die after Hurricane Katrina he stated on September 6, 2005, “I do not subscribe to the notion that the painfully slow response of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security was racially-based. The ineptitude was colorblind.”

Obama was right that he had not spoken to these issues as would be desired. While he may have conceded that the subprime loans were predatory, he has failed to condemn Penny Pritzker, his national finance advisor, for having made a fortune through the subprime mortgage scheme at the expense of Africans and Latinos.

In fact, Obama’s painting the U.S. as some place on the verge of a “post-racial” society with “race problems” being “90 percent” solved, his opposition to reparations for African people and his liquidating the colonial relationship that African people in the U.S. are held in are disarming. His role as a pied piper — leading African people who are disenchanted with the inability of the U.S. electoral process to provide any solution for them right back to the Democratic Party — is problematic for African people.

His role is one that works against African people’s struggle for self-determination — the loss of which was necessary for the building and maintaining of the United States of America.

The question for African people cannot be confined to whom to vote for in a bourgeois election where freedom and self-determination for African people will never be on the ballot. The question instead must be one of what must be done to win self-determination.

PAYCO Commemorates 32nd Anniversary of Soweto Uprising 

June 16 Commemorations

In memory of the martyrs of the June 16, 1976 Soweto Uprising, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania, the Pan Africanist Youth Congress (PAYCO) and the rest of its component structures insist that this day is “FOREVER JUNE 16”.

That is the case because this part of our history was written with the blood of the innocent, freedom loving, sons and daughters of Africa. Thus, the PAC has not, does not and will never celebrate this day but instead would commemorate and regard it as one of the heroic days in the struggle calendar. It is consistent with the African culture that any tragedy is mourned, commemorated and not celebrated.

All these years of claims and counter-claims about June 16, there is a reality that has been deliberately ignored by the powers that be. This reality is the longest political trial in South Africa — the Bethal 18 secret trial in which the Lion of Azania, Zephania Mothopeng, was accused number one.

The trial was held secret so as not to give any publicity to the activities of the PAC. It was a declared policy of the racist regime to isolate the PAC with the aim of crushing it.

The Lion of Azania together with the other 17 PAC members were charged for conspiring and influencing the students’ mass action in Soweto 1976. Uncle Zeph was sentenced to 30 years in prison and was sent to Robben Island.

Among the 18 trialists were fellow comrades John Ganya, Mark Shinners, Hamilton Keke, Alfred Neshaineshai, Julius Landingwe, Zolile Ndindwa, Moffat Zungu, Michael Khala, Goodwell Nyathi, Temba Hlatshwayo, Molatlegi Tlhale, Rodney Tsoletsane and Daniel Matsobane.

Four others were tortured to death while in police detention. These were Dr. Naboth Ntshuntsha, Daniel Malinga, Arthur Khoza and Bonaventura Malaza.

In the Supreme Court of South Africa – Local Division, Judge Curlewis found for the apartheid regime’s prosecution in 1979 that the PAC played a leading role in the Soweto Uprising. Evidence before Judge Curlewis showed that the PAC organized and fixed the date of the Soweto Uprising.

A young student witness told the court that Zeph Mothopeng had said at a meeting in May 1976 that riots were being planned which would result in a countrywide revolution. School children would start by stoning and burning government buildings according to a June 9, 1978 issue of the Rand Daily Mail.

June 16 was not just a mere protest by students but a well planned revolutionary action by the people listed above and many others. The PAC in Robben Island took a stand that all those that are released must identify a common issue that will unite Africanist masses against the apartheid regime.

We want to reassure the nation that the PAC history will never be destroyed but only be delayed. However, we the youth of the PAC say that the martyrs who fell on June 16 would never have sat back in this current quagmire that this country finds itself on.

Currently the unemployment rate is sitting at 42 percent with 70 percent of the unemployed being youth. The HIV/AIDS epidemic that is destroying our country and continent, education morass, poverty, high inflation rate — the list is endless.

We call upon the youth to come and join, support the PAC in a quest to salvage the African masses in this neo-liberal economic and social crisis in this country. The question is, who is currently governing this country and what are they doing on this current crisis.

Youth Development Agency

The PAC youth says all these government youth structures like Umsobomvu Youth Fund, Youth Commission and the Youth Councils are just mere structures that only focus on producing youth with corrupt tendencies, vulgar materialist display and also act as employment agencies for the African National Congress (ANC) youth, but not for the benefit and uplifment of the poor African youth in general. We therefore call for a regime change in government where youth will be given a say on the future.

Education crisis

In 1994, Mr. Nelson Mandela and his ANC said the doors of learning shall be open to all, but currently that is not the case. The education in this country is only for the privileged as it is a sold commodity. Hence the historic demand of the Pan Africanist for a free education from crèche to tertiary education remains the ultimate solution.

At the same time we wish to put on record the argument that merger of tertiary institutions headed by the former Minster of Education Prof Kader Asmal has proven to be a dismal failure and has neither given a clear strategic direction to the “merged” institution nor addressed the all important question of transformation of the education system.

It is for this reason that Pan Africanist youth formations, namely PAYCO and PASMA, intend to follow up the former minster to engage and prove to him that the arrogance with which he undertook the “merger” of institution was uncalled for. This is meant to teach the lesson of how leaders should conduct themselves when they are elected in government and to ensure that stepping out office won’t absolve anyone form the blunders and mess that they created.

The current xeno-Afrophobia

The Pan Africanist Congress and its youth structures want to put it clear that this is not xenophiobia but only xeno-Afrophobia as these attacks are directed to only other African nationals. The intervention by government to create camps is the worst phenomenon as these camps are a total disaster when it comes to health, safety and education. Our African brothers and sisters do not deserve this kind of treatment as we believe that if it were people from Europe, the government would have organized five-star accommodation for them.

We want to call upon the South Africans who are involved in these acts to redirect their energies to the enemy, which are the multi-nationals, the government that is pushing a neo-liberal economic agenda. Somalians, Nigerians, Ethopians, Zimbabweans, etc. never colonized us and we don’t know why the missiles are directed at them.

The fact of the matter is, the current governing political party embraced neo-liberal policies that are not a solution to the toiling masses of Azania and these are just come backs from the negotiated settlements of the pre-1994 era.

From now on, in honoring the heroic martyrs of June 16, we will be mobilizing all the African people to direct their struggles on the basis of the principle.

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