Former Congresswoman McKinney (D-GA) delivered this speech on June 21 at First African Presbyterian Church, Lithonia, Georgia.

Good afternoon, we are here to discuss Zimbabwe.  What we can do for Zimbabwe and what Zimbabwe can do for us.

As a larger discussion, however, we ought to include what we can do for ourselves and for others.  And what we have failed to do.

Let us not forget Alberta Spruill and Ousmane Zongo, an African American and an African killed by the unique circumstances that unite blacks and Africans in this country.  Ousmane Zongo follows in the footsteps of Amadou Diallo, a young unarmed African man shot 19 times by racism in America.  Sadly, Diallo wasn’t the first African whose American dream was shattered by the true state of black America and Ousmane won’t be the last.  Ousmane just happened to be a black man in an America too quick to kill any black man.

Mrs. Spruill died because the NY Police Department had authorities that had been given it by the Ashcroft Justice Department; authorities it didn’t deserve.  The NYPD decided to use those new authorities, not in the corporate suites of Wall Street and Madison Avenue, where corporate criminals rip billions of dollars off working class, tax-paying Americans, but instead invaded the home of Mrs. Alberta Spruill, a grandmother, who at the time was dressing for work when the NYPD busted through her door.  Literally frightened to death, Mrs. Spruill had a heart attack and died.  The police Chief later said, "I’m sorry."

The NYPD had disturbed the wrong lady, at the wrong home, at the wrong address.  Mrs. Spruill follows a long line of black mothers and grandmothers who bury their husbands and sons in racist America - and then they are buried.

This past Thursday, we celebrated Juneteenth.  And in fact, Georgia hosts the longest running Juneteenth celebration in our country.  As you know, Juneteenth is celebrated every June 19th, because that is when the slaves realized that they were free.

January to June 1865 – the twilight of legal slavery in our country.

We share something with those blacks who had been freed but didn’t know it.  The blacks in Africa and the blacks in America.  And those blacks of 1865.  And hence, we’ve remained slaves far longer than should be.  And neither of us has strategized effectively to stay free.  As a result, I suggest that we could easily be in the twilight of our freedom. Both here at home and on the Continent.

Here at home, suffering the oppressions of unchecked racism we are unable to help – and in some cases unwilling – to help our brothers and sisters in Africa.  On the Continent, our brothers and sisters help themselves but sadly not their people and not us.

So we have come today to speak about Zimbabwe.  And what prompts that discussion?  Headlines that inform us that Zimbabwe is coming apart.  Some would have us believe that we become heated over Zimbabwe because of the country’s human rights abuse, democracy well over the line toward autocracy, rampant corruption, and black racism.  But ultimately, the question is the land.  Zimbabwe has embarked upon a long-promised and well-overdue land reform.

But President Mugabe has known full well that the question of Zimbabwean independence, even at its dawn, was hinged on the question of the ownership of the land.  For the question remains unanswered by those who claim title to the land of how they actually got that land.  And if they are not willing to answer that question, then how can their title to the land be legally valid?

But that is not just a Zimbabwe issue.  That is an African issue.  For Africa was not a barren land devoid of people.  Africa was for Africans until the Europeans came along.  And then Africa became theirs and basically remains theirs to this day.

We African Americans have a lot of nerve getting upset about Africans’ failure to secure their own land when we have had and continue to have an unprecedented and un-halted loss of land right here in America – and never really secured the 40 acres nor the mule that we were due for slavery, yet reparations were paid to slaveholders who lost their slaves due to freedom.

I am certain that this exchange will be good and healthy and we all will benefit from the information.  But at the end of the day, what will we accomplish and what are we willing to fight for?  And what are we willing to risk for?

Is Zimbabwe willing to risk severing its relationship with Herman Cohen since Cohen has failed so miserably to prevent Zimbabwe hysteria from reaching America?

And why didn’t Zimbabwe use its alliances and friendships with blacks in the US and in England to explain its cause and have the tough questions asked of "candidate" Blair and his New Labour Party?

Since 1998, three million people have died in Democratic Republic of Congo.  In 1994, one million Rwandans died because the US wanted "regime change" in Central Africa.  During the period in-between, Jonas Savimbi romped across the Angolan landscape with American-supplied landmines, making Angola the amputee capital of the world because the US wanted a friend in power in oil-rich Angola.  At the same time, the world’s attention focused like a laser on the chopped-off hands of little boys and 12-year-old raped little girls in Sierra Leone because Madeleine Albright tried to sneak Foday Sankoh, the leader of the so-called rebels who were committing these atrocities, into the democratically elected government so he could be in charge of diamonds – to ensure cheap access to Sierra Leone’s diamonds.  Cheap in dollars maybe, but costly in black blood.

Laurent Kabila’s last words to me were that he told Susan Rice that he would never betray Congo.  And now Laurent Kabila is dead.  He followed in the footsteps of Patrice Lumumba.

So from Patrice Lumumba to Laurent Kabila to Amadou Diallo to Ousmane Zongo.  Our black men are under attack.  But the source of the attack was not from home.  The source of the attack was Washington, DC and a refusal to recognize the rights of black people whether here or abroad.

We now have a "government" that is consolidating power and taking away our very rights to organize and fight back.  And while we numb ourselves with Hummers and Mercedes, and mortgages that we could lose tomorrow, our America is becoming a Republic in which we can’t even be sure that our votes will be counted.  It is imperative that we stop the madness in the USA; and I guarantee you that then it will stop in Africa.  But, as I said earlier, I believe we are at the twilight of our freedom.

When police in Benton Harbor, Michigan or New York City can pull a trigger at a black man first and think about the consequences later, when we have more young black men in prison than in college, when an 1860s South Carolina anti-lynching law intended to protect blacks is now used to prosecute blacks who get into fights with whites, when an entire town - Tulia Texas - can indict its black men wrongfully of criminal acts on the word of a white man, when parts of the Voting Rights Act expire in 2007 and that issue is nowhere on our agenda, our failure to adequately address problems that affect us here at home is evident.  And how can we save Zimbabwe when we haven’t yet taken the necessary steps to save ourselves?

In George Bush’s New World Order, all roads lead to Washington, DC.  And it is only in Washington, DC that we can effectively deal with our problems and those that plague Africa.  The Bush cabal is planning regime change operations all over the world.  They’re currently threating Iran and Syria;  rattling sabers at North Korea and China.  They’re unhappy with Russia and Germany.  But if we don’t organize ourselves carefully in this country, and reach across the oceans to our African brothers and sisters, and they reach back, this could truly be the twilight of our freedoms.

Thank you.

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Issue Number 48
June 26, 2003

Other commentaries in this issue:

Cover Story
Obama to Have Name Removed from DLC List: Says "New Democrats" acted "without my knowledge"

Blind, Deaf, Dumb and Deluded: White America unfit for global role

Bubble USA

If it’s true, is it Black male-bashing?... Dixon confronts Georgia professors... "Bright lines" and the DLC

Republicans Go to Bat for Predatory Lenders
by Maude Hurd, National President of ACORN

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Contents of Issue 47 June 19, 2003:

Cover Story
Not "Corrupted" by DLC, Says Obama - Black U.S. Senate candidate responds to BC critique

The Pirates' Blunt, Useless Instruments - The Iraq occupation cannot possibly succeed

Borg Queen

Two too many Powells... McKinney on comeback trail... Black male-bashing syndrome... The GOP, the DLC, and hyenas

Disrespect, Distortion and Double Binds: Media treatment of progressive black leaders by Jacqueline Bacon

You can read any past issue of The Black Commentator in its entirety by going to the Past Issues page.