history which bears and determines us has the form of war rather
than that of a language: relations of power, not relations of
not up against people because they’re white. But we’re against
those who practice racism. We’re against those who drop bombs
on people because their color happens to be of a different shade
than yours. And because we’re against it, the press says we’re
violent. We’re not for violence. We’re for peace. But the people
that we’re up against are for violence. You can’t be peaceful
when you’re dealing with them.
19, 2009. It
is the anniversary of Malcolm X’s birthday. Malcolm’s life should
empower us everyday.
he was a street hustler, Little Red could never have envisioned
what he would become or what he means for many of us today. Malcolm
described himself as “hip” then. In The
Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley, he
would take me to groovy, frantic scenes in different chicks’ and
cats’ pads, where with the lights and juke down mellow, everybody
blew gage and juiced back and jumped. I met chicks who were fine
as May wine, and cats, who were hip to all the happenings.
Red informed Malcolm X. The latter never forgot the lessons he
learned from the former.
later, when Malcolm stood looking out at predominantly Black working-class
audiences, he knew the social, political, economical pit established
for most of them to reside beneath the shadow of tyranny. He could
face the shadow, too, without cowering or trembling in fear and
speak: “Look up,” he told the audience. “You sustain this shadow
of tyranny. All of you, all at once, blow it away!”
wasn’t easy. Nothing is. At every opportunity he had to remind
a defeated spirit that it had power to blow the shadow away. “Anything
I do today,” he said, “I regard as urgent.”
saw a crisis then, and it required his urgent attention. If he
had had more time, if he had been allowed to organize and educate
the masses to recognize their condition as an international crisis
affecting all Black people, if he had had more time to then galvanize
Black leadership around the masses to present the case of Black
people to the United Nations, would we have not experienced the
catastrophe of a multi-prong, international assault on Black people
- one that even many Black leaders now pretend to ignore?
the shadow would grow stronger on our fear, Malcolm knew. He saw
the potential for us to accept an ever growing pit in which we
would become accustom to living, in fear because over time, we
would not be able to distinguish between our humanity and their
definition of existence as criminals, terrorists.
shadow now is a very real entity. Anywhere we go now, the shadow
precedes us; it follows our steps; it surrounds us on all sides.
Black people, Africans and Africans in the Diaspora, are linked
to the other masses of pit-dwellers, the Brown, Red, and Yellow
masses, and collectively, our desperation is usable in the service
of a corporate empire.
are “disposable” outright. We are the “disposable,” ordered to
dig deeper holes and reside as the “captured,” far in the shadow,
providing cheap labor and profits for the corporate empire, if
we resist. The greatest conspiracy theory of them all: freedom
and justice is for all - under the shadow!
get confused; the shadow can be so overwhelming. We begin to identify
ourselves with it, become absorbed in it, and think we’re it!
We are not the shadow! It is a way of existence that is unacceptable
for many or many of us would still be on the cotton or tobacco
was certainly unacceptable for John Africa and the group of freedom
fighters. In Jailhouse
Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the USA, Mumia
Abu Jamal recalls John Africa’s closing statement in his 1981
MOVE organization lives by the principle of life, the origin,
the source. My Mama, or the person you heard referred to as mother
nature - that’s my mama (sic). That is your mama, too. Because
I’m fighting for air that you’ve got to breathe (sic). Yeah, you
do. And if it gets too polluted, you’re not going to breathe that
air. And I’m fighting for water that you’ve got [to] clean, and
if it gets any worse, you’re not going to be drinking that water.
I’m fighting for food that you’ve got to eat. And you know, you’ve
got to eat it and if it gets any worse, you’re not going to be
eating that food.
are not fighting people. We are not out there fighting cops for
the sake of fighting cops. Those
cops are fighting us and they are fighting us because they want
to uphold this industry.
being naturalists, for their refusal to live under the shadow,
the Philadelphia MOVE organization became outright “disposable”
want to exterminate us,” Ramona Africa told me in a phone interview.
Africa is a member of MOVE and the survivor who saved Birdie Africa
(then 12 years old) by escaping the burning building at 1662 Osage
Avenue in Philadelphia after the police illegally dropped a C-4
bomb on their home.
the 24th anniversary of that police assault in May 13, 1985, Ms.
Africa is still on the battlefield. John Africa, along with 4
other adults and 5 children were killed in that firestorm. Along
with the FBI and Police Commissioner, Gregor Sambor, the first
Black mayor of Philadelphia,
Wilson Goode, condoned the illegal bombing of the MOVE home. Goode
held a press conference while the Africa
family was under siege. Goode told his audience he was
ready “to seize control of the house…by any means necessary.”
members and supporters had been working to free 9 of their family
members falsely charges and “jointly sentenced in the 1978 killing
of Officer James Ramp after a year-long police stakeout of MOVE’s
Powelton Village home,” writes Hans Bennett in “Attention, MOVE:
This is America! - At the 24th Anniversary of the May 13 Massacre,
MOVE organizes for 2009 Parole Hearings.” He quotes Ms. Africa:
government came out to Powelton
Village in 1978 not to arrest, but to
kill. Having failed to do that, my family was unjustly convicted
of a murder that the government knows they didn’t commit, and
imprisoned them with 30-100 year sentences. Later, when we as
a family dared to speak up against this, they came out to our
home again and dropped a bomb on us, burned babies alive.
Africa, severely burned, was charged with “conspiracy to riot”
and served 7 years of a 7 year sentence. She could have received
a shorter sentence, she told me. They had a question for me: “Would
I agree to no contact with MOVE?”
Ms. Africa is working to free the MOVE 9. They could be out too
if they agreed to denounce MOVE!
you can’t kill a revolution!
have traveled world-wide and people want to know when will we
open a chapter?”
plans to open chapters throughout the U.S.,
and chapters in Spain,
France, and Cuba.
have spoken to students at Vassar, Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania and other campuses.”
denounce the tactics of oppression used against MOVE and other
resistance organizations and they want to learn and become involved
- because they are involved, Ramona Africa told me. Silence, fear,
and inaction are responses greatly appreciated by the corporate
Ms. Africa notes how some people have been “duped, “as John Africa
used to say, into believing they “must abide by legality. Your
rights are embedded in legality. How can you think that abiding
by rules of your oppressors” would set you free? John Africa taught
the members of MOVE to recognize who benefits from this legality
and who suffers.
poor people and Black people are sent to jail, the first thing
they are asked is what did you do?”
did you do? That’s acceptance talking. That’s regulating
injustice from within the pit. That’s ignorance and fear talking!
time I went to court, when I came in, the judge was polite.”
morning, Ms. Africa. You have not been found guilty of anything.
This is a preliminary hearing.’”
read the charges.
said, No I don’t understand. “I’m in handcuffs. I understand I
am innocent until proven guilty. Did you come in handcuffs?”
system can’t survive with serious resistance, Ms. Africa said.
“They tried to bride us off with money and positions. Then they
came with violence and an artillery of war” - the bombing of the
MOVE home in 1985.
is total. No one can coordinate your life for you.”
imprisoned members of MOVE are still called MOVE 9 - Janine, Debbie,
Janet, Delbert, Mike, Phil, Eddie, and Chuck Africa. Ms. Africa
explained: “Our sister Merle has passed. But we still remember
complained of a stomach ache, and she was ordered to remain in
her cell. Later that night, she was served a plate at her cell
Merle was found dead.
are focused on the release of our family first. We keep contacting
the parole board and keeping the pressure on them. They’ve gotten
away with keeping innocent people in prison.”
authorities would love for the MOVE members to “accept responsibility”
and agree to wrongdoing. “Why would you say you are guilty, if
you are innocent?”
about the Constitution and the Fifth Amendment that says nobody
can be made to incriminate themselves?”
you have a home plan or a job plan then you are to be released.
But the courts keep people beyond their sentences.”
do respond. Just because people aren’t active as they should be,
doesn’t mean their sentiments aren’t with you. We have to turn
that feeling into action.”
the best way you can honor Malcolm and the memory of those 5 children
and 6 adults?
are held in Philadelphia
to educate the people and to organize support for the release
of the MOVE 9. If this isn’t happening in your city, then what
are you waiting on? Regard the release of the MOVE 9 as “urgent”
business. Join Ramona Africa and the MOVE family and all who struggle
for the rights of the people. The pit, created by your fear, is
not your home! The power is with you. Look up, and tell the
audience: You sustain this shadow of tyranny. All of you, all
at once, blow it away!
Sister Ramona a call: (215) 387-4107 and go to onamove.com or
Then wish Malcolm a happy birthday!
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has been a writer,
for over thirty years of commentary, resistance criticism and
cultural theory, and short stories with a Marxist sensibility
to the impact of cultural narrative violence and its antithesis,
resistance narratives. With entrenched dedication to justice and
equality, she has served as a coordinator of student and community
resistance projects that encourage the Black Feminist idea of
an equalitarian community and facilitator of student-teacher communities
behind the walls of academia for the last twenty years. Dr. Daniels
holds a PhD in Modern American Literatures, with a specialty in
Cultural Theory (race, gender, class narratives) from Loyola
University, Chicago. Click
to contact Dr. Daniels.