Africans is Chicago come out for “The Ballot and the Bullet”

CHICAGO––The Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations (BIBC) held their annual national conference at Chicago State University in Chicago, Illinois on Saturday and Sunday, August 12-13, 2017.  The theme of the conference was “The Ballot and the Bullet: Elections, War and Peace in the Era of Trump.”

The conference was attended by African people from throughout the U.S. including Philadelphia, Texas, Washington D.C., Florida and Chicago itself.

The program was filled with important reports from the coalition working groups, resolutions for action and cutting edge analysis.

As the theme stated, the focus of the program was on raising up strategy for African people to engage in resistance for self-determination through the electoral process, while also recognizing that doing so cannot serve as a substitute for anti-colonial resistance through armed struggle.

The program opened up with a welcome by BIBC Vice Chair Lisa Davis, which was followed by a cultural performance by a very talented emcee who goes by the name of Limitless Soundz.

Next in the program was the segment titled “Business of the Coalition” where the members of the BIBC steering committee were introduced.

The introductions were followed by a financial report compiled by BIBC treasurer Ousainou Mbenga, and then reports from the Health Care, Black Community Control of Police and Political Prisoners working groups given by Lisa Davis, Diop Olugbala and Ralph Poynter. 

These reports reflected the concrete work being done by the coalition to advance the 19 point platform for Black Political Self Determination.  It was indeed a busy year!

Glen Ford, Executive Director of Black Agenda Report and a BIBC Steering Committee member gave an insightful presentation summing up the theme of the conference.

The Ballot

Then the “Ballot” half of the two-day conference began and featured panels and presentations on how revolutionaries and anti-imperialists can effectively use the electoral process to advance their strategic aims.

No better example can be given at this point in time than the campaign of Eritha “Akilé” Cainion for 6th District of City Council in St. Petersburg, FL. Sister Eritha laid out her campaign platform and explained how it is essentially a campaign for Black Community Control.

Next New York State Assemblyman Charles Barron presented on his experiences running for City Council and Mayor of New York city.

Zaki Baruti of the Universal African People’s Organization then spoke on proportional representation, which is an initiative his organization has been fighting for to challenge the increasing redrawing of district voting lines being done by white capitalist power to accommodate their electoral strategies across the country.

The Coalition had also determined to not restrict our intervention in the electoral process to just campaigns for elected officials. 

Black Community Control of the Police

Equally as important is the need to intervene in the electoral process for policy reform. Referendums and initiatives for Black Community Control of Police and Reparations are two major fronts on which this battle is being fought.

Therefore, the next segment of the workshop was on advancing the struggle for Black Community Control of the Police through referendum and city council resolution/ordinance.

This was a panel facilitated by Black Community Control of the Police Chair Diop Olugbala, who gave a thorough PowerPoint presentation explaining the goals and objectives of the referendum and ordinance campaign while also calling on the people to join the BCCP working group. 

Frank Chapman of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression was a featured speaker on the panel as well. He offered up a wealth of knowledge and experience him and his organization have had with police policy reform work in Chicago.

The Bullet

Day two was themed ‘The Bullet.’  In the agenda were the most critical questions confronting the black liberation struggle as it related to the question of economic development and the material conditions our people face. 

The agenda opened with an overview of the national Black Political Agenda for Self Determination Declaration and 19 points, given by Glen Ford.  This was followed by question and answer. 

Then sister Betty Davis, chair of the education working group and proponent of point 13 of the agenda for self determination opened up the next panel of the program on black community control of education. 

Sister Betty was joined by Brandon Johnson, a teacher in the Chicago public school system; Ralph Poynter who is a veteran in the struggle for community control of New York city schools; and sister Harris who was late to the panel as a result of being prohibited from leaving her block if residence after an undercover cop shot an 18-year-old African.

Black community control of education!

The underlying point of the panel driven by Sister Betty was the need for the struggles for black community control of police and education to be one and the same.

Through the 19-point platform and existence of a strong black community control of schools working group to work alongside the black community control of police working group this can happen!

Following the education panel was the presentation on reparations, made by brother Kamm Howard, a BIBC Steering Committee member and chair of the Reparations Working Group. 

In his presentation Kamm laid out the plan of action to advance the reparations initiative campaign being waged by the BIBC in Chicago. All that is needed is 50,000 signatures to have the reparations initiative placed on the ballot. And, as brother Kamm stated, history has shown once a referendum gets on the ballot it is passed. 

Black is back and here to stay!

Next was the presentation given on point 14, free universal, quality healthcare for all by sister Lisa Davis chair of the BIBC healthcare working group.

Lisa gave an important analysis on the need for the struggle to achieve this demand to not only speak to the question of paying for healthcare, but also it’s very quality.

She raised the important point that it doesn’t matter if healthcare is free if it is a healthcare that serves the need only for profit. Currently healthcare is nothing but drugs and high priced and unnecessary operations. 

Sister Lisa interjected that quality healthcare that we demand be made free for all people must also include what is now considered “alternative medicine” which has scientifically been proven to be effective.

Next was the workshop on political prisoners facilitated by brother comrade Ralph Poynter and featuring reverend James, a former political prisoner. 

Ralph opened up the panel explaining the strategic significance of defending our black political prisoners, stating “when we deny or neglect the existence of political prisoners, we deny and neglect our own existence.

“We either defend them, give them material support while they are locked up, or we be prepared to replace them in prison, meaning we must be prepared to do what they did.”  Such a powerful statement.

Then, brother reverend Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor, Michigan gave a moving testimony of his efforts to organize prisoners after he was imprisoned for fighting the crimes being committed against our people by the white capitalist whirlpool family who controlled the town with an iron fist. 

The last panel of day two was entitled “War and Peace in the Era of Trump” featuring Glen Ford and Ajamu Baraka who spoke through live stream from Colombia. 

The panel was similar to a dialogue between these two veterans in the struggle for black power.  While summing up everything from war and rumors of war to Susan Rice and African the two comrades (correctly) criticized the black congressional caucus for being an organization of sellouts, particularly for its complicity in the U.S. government’s decision to transfer heavy artillery and other aid from the U.S. military to local police agencies which occupy black communities across the country. 

During that process comrade Ajamu stated that his organization will join the Black Is Back Coalition! 

Indeed, black is back and getting stronger than ever before!

Join The Black Is Back Coalition!


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