PHILADELPHIA, PA — On Thursday, August 27, the Coalition to Save the Libraries held a protest outside of City Council’s chambers in City Hall. The protest was called under the auspice of the Coalition’s opposition to City Council for waiving its power to hold a hearing and vote on Nutter’s “doomsday” budget, with which he threatens to cut 3,000 city jobs and many services. But the Coalition’s real nature, not as an opponent to library closures, but as an opponent to the struggle for self determination and reparations to the African community, was exposed. During the press conference/protest, Coalition to Save the Libraries organizer Zachary Hershman approached International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement organizers demanding that we take down our signs that challenge Nutter’s war budget that spends billions on police and prisons that attack the African community.
Attack on InPDUM Organizers Reminiscent of City Hall Arrest
The entire scenario was reminiscent of the attack on the City Hall 2 – when on March 19, 2009 police attacked Philadelphia InPDUM branch leader Diop Olugbala (aka Wali Rahman) and Shabaka Mnombatha (aka Franklin Moses), and other members and supporters of InPDUM, during the City Council meeting where neocolonial Mayor Michael Nutter introduced the highly controversial 2010 city budget. During this process, InPDUM members were protesting Mayor Nutter’s current war budget. InPDUM was advocating the appropriation of these funds used to wage war against the African community to instead go toward economic development in the African community.
Under different circumstances we could understand and empathize with the Coalition’s request. It is possible that for strategic reasons an organization may want to control what signs are being held up during a press conference it organizes. However, this was not one of those cases. The fact is that in the email InPDUM received where the Coalition to Save the Libraries invited any and all organizations to attend it also invited any and all to speak, from their perspective, on the budget cuts. If we were allowed to speak, then certainly we were allowed to hold up our signs. But the reality is that the Coalition attempted to silence both our voices as well as our signs.
When it demanded InPDUM’s signs were removed from the protest this made the Coalition’s unity with Nutter and City Hall’s war on the African community glaring. Just as on March 19th other forces were holding up signs during the August 27th protest – some of which called for “people power” and other liberal utterances that had no relationship to the real world. But it was InPDUM who speaks in the interests of African working and poor people who the Coalition targeted – just as the police did on March 19th. It is never “people” who are attacked – it is Africans, Mexicans and other oppressed people. In this City it is African and other oppressed and colonized people who are suffering. It is Africans whose labor (whether in prisons or in the streets) provides wealth for this City.
The Coalition to Save the Libraries opposition to the political articulations and actions of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement was more than just that. It is evidence of its opposition to the struggle for freedom for African people. This opposition has become increasingly clear over the past several months, where on several occasions InPDUM has reached out to the Coalition, attempting to win it to participate in forums and other mobilizations that would unite the oppressed, working and poor of Philadelphia against Nutter and City Hall under the leadership of the African community whose oppression has always sustained Philly’s economy. With each invitation and suggestion, we were either met with opposition or ignored – for one reason or another.
InPDUM still unites with any and all opposition to the budget cuts. But we also believe it must be made in the context of a greater demand for freedom and reparations for the African community. Therein lies the basis of a serious political disagreement that InPDUM has with the Coalition to Save the Libraries. This disagreement is rooted in InPDUM’s commitment to defend the democratic right of the African community to be self determined and the Coalition’s commitment to protecting class and colonial peace in Philadelphia.
Coalition Won’t Oppose War Budget as a Part of Colonial Policy
Whether funded by the state or the city, the majority of the facilities and programs that face closure or have already been closed because of Nutter’s war budget are located in the African community and were built primarily to serve the African community. The effects of Mayor Nutter’s campaign to shut down swimming pools in African communities throughout Philadelphia recently hit national attention when a group of 65 African and Latino children, all members of Creative Steps summer camp, were ousted from the Huntington Valley Club (a primarily white swimming club located in the suburbs of Philadelphia).
While this story received national attention for its implications on “race relations” in this country, the mainstream media failed to report that the swimming pools in the neighborhoods the children from Creative Steps would have normally gone to were closed down because of Nutter’s budget cuts. It is the same closure of swimming pools that also led to a young girl’s recent drowning in the Delaware River, where many African youth are forced to go because of lack of swimming pools.
In addition to the swimming pools, various community activist groups and daycare centers that are vital to the economic and social life of the African community are being shut down. And while the funding for programs and institutions that lean toward economic development for our communities continue to be cut, the federal, state and local government continues to pump massive amounts of capital into the public safety budget (ie. police, prisons and courts) used for the police containment of the African and Latino community.
The Coalition to Save the Libraries’ acts as though the Libraries are the only institutions facing closure. Moreover, its refusal to recognize the nature of the City’s budget and economy is opportunistic. It sacrifices the aspirations of African people to control our own resources in exchange for a narrow demand to keep the libraries open. The reality is that the City’s budget is a war budget produced by a parasitic economy from which $1.1 billion were spent this year on police, prisons and courts that attack the African community. It is a war budget that spent only 7% of its budget on education this year. It is a war budget which invests nothing towards a solution to the abject poverty the African community suffers (40% of the Philly’s African population lives below the poverty line). And it was a war budget that did the same thing before Nutter ever mentioned a budget cut or closing down a library. Keeping libraries, swimming pools or any other services in the community open will not solve the fundamental problem for the poor and oppressed African community. It may keep librarians and lifeguards employed. It will provide places for our youth to go instead of having to run the streets or take a risk by going to swim in hostile places like Huntington Valley or the Delaware River. But it will not stop the police from murdering us and terrorizing us. It will not stop the slumlords from denying us decent shelter. It will not provide economic development for our poor and oppressed communities. It will not restore freedom and self determination to African people – which is what we need, in the final analysis.
Coalition’s Good Faith in Nutter Wont Work
We believe it is opportunistic to put forth a demand to keep any institution in the city open while ignoring the brutal colonial war that is being made against the African community. It is similar to the demand that Mayor Nutter made alongside Police Chief Charles Ramsey and Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby to save police jobs. Why should we support the demand to maintain funding of the same police department that functions as a colonial occupying army, responsible for the daily police murders, attacks, harassment, drive by shootings, importation of drugs, and abuse of African women. What interest do we have in saving jobs created to attack the African community? We are not making comparison between the police and librarians. Libraries and other essential services play a vital role in our communities. However, the struggle to preserve such services must be with recognition of an entire economy and government that was constructed on the backs of black people. It is not simply libraries which we must save. It is libraries controlled by a self governing African community which must be saved.
While the Coalition to Save the Libraries struggles to silence InPDUM’s analysis that exposes City Hall’s colonial war against African people it refuses to indict Nutter, City Council and the state General Assembly for the criminals that they are – instead imploring them to do “the right thing”. It is these lying politicians and greedy bankers who should be locked up, not the City Hall 2 and InPDUM for defending the African community. The Coalition (and others) should be raising up the demand to lock up Nutter, not just for closing libraries, but for waging an all out colonial war against the African community – a war funded by the stolen resources of the African community.
As the struggle between the people and City Hall continues to intensify, Nutter has begun to set up a smoke screen of press conferences and rallies where he claims to be against the budget cuts. Nutter must think that we have forgotten that he was the one who began the discussion about budget cuts in the first place! It was Nutter who closed down swimming pools and libraries in the African community. It was Nutter who refused to reallocate the City’s $1.1 billion police containment budget for genuine economic development for the African community. And today, it is Nutter who refuses to demand any money from the state of Pennsylvania for economic development in this city.
By his own admission, all Nutter asked for was permission from the state of Pennsylvania to maintain Philly’s war economy by charging us more sales taxes. “We’re not asking the Commonwealth, we’re not asking the General Assembly, we’re not asking the governor for a dime,” Nutter said arrogantly. Why not?! If anyone should pay it is the white rulers of this city and country – the bankers and corrupt politicians that rob us for billions every year.
Then, Nutter had the nerve to come back and tell the people that if he doesn’t get permission from his bosses to charge us more taxes he will have to impose what he called “the doomsday budget” through which the people will be pushed into an even deeper level of poverty. Through the doomsday budget more than 3,000 city workers will be fired. City services like trash collection and even more community centers will be cut.
Now it is City Council who is co-signing Nutter’s sellout-ism.
The Coalition won’t make these criticisms of Nutter, City Council or any of the state General Assembly members. Instead it waits for Nutter to “do the right thing” – further evidence of its lack of faith in the masses of “the people” to take power away from Nutter and his criminal enterprise on terms set by the true victims of his oppressive policies. This is further evidence of its own aspirations to preserve an economy built on the oppression of African people – just as long as certain people can keep their jobs in it.
Betrayal of Black Power Movement is a Betrayal of Progress
Most importantly, by taking this liberal and opportunistic route of resistance, the Coalition betrays the only social force in this City capable of bringing City Hall to its knees – the African working class. The fact is that every period of progressive change in Philly and the U.S. has been pushed forth as a consequence of the struggle for African liberation in this country. The period of the 1960’s was the most recent example of such a period – where the masses of Africans in this City rose up in revolutionary resistance – demanding Black Power. This entire movement, under the leadership of such organizations as the Black Panther Party opened the entire society up = preventing imperialism from ruling in the same old way. This created space for broad sectors of the white population to advance their own selfish interests – at the expense of the African working class-led Black Power movement. As a vicious military assault was waged against the Panthers, the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM) and others anti-colonial forces in the African community, white workers, gays and white women built movements to forward their own agendas – all abandoning the Black Power Movement.
40 years later the government is deepening its attack on the African community – not just targeting our organizations, but the masses of our people. This is why City Hall has its war budget in place. Conscious of the need to maintain the oppression of the African community primarily, the government aims to win the participation of various forces in this attack – primarily the white community and the sellouts among the African middleclass itself – like Michael Nutter. By refusing to unite with the call to end the billion dollar war against the African community the Coalition to Save the Libraries not only betrays the African community, but sabotages its own efforts to stop the closure of the libraries. The closures – which only occur in the African community – are nothing but another manifestation of this war. They can only be stopped by a strong movement for Black Power.
InPDUM Draws Line in Sand Through Struggle for Real Democracy in Philly
For years the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement has been courageously and boldly leading the struggle in Philadelphia and around the world to defend the democratic rights of the African community and to unite the entire population against the anti-democratic policies of City Hall which clearly serve the interests of the City’s ruling elite. In Philadelphia we have held demonstrations against the police violence in the African community, sometimes being the only organized voice of resistance.
Most recently, we held a Tribunal (court) to put the City of Philadelphia on trial for crimes of genocide against the African community. In the process of building this tribunal, our International Organizer Diop Olugbala physically served Mayor Nutter and Police Chief Charles Ramsey with the People’s Subpoena to appear at the Tribunal during the December 10, 2008 Townhall Meeting Nutter organized at Ben Franklin High School. In fact, the following week the Coalition to Save the Libraries organized a People’s Injunction that, although was clearly influenced by InPDUM’s December 13 Tribunal, lacked the call for oppressed people to seize the power necessary to carry out a just verdict and sentence against Nutter and his regime.
We aim to pose some sobering questions to the entire City of Philadelphia – particularly those who consider ourselves to be progressives, including members of the Coalition to Save the Libraries. Are you so short sighted that we cannot see the solution to the problem we are all confronted with? Can you not see that African people must be in control of our own lives? Can you not see that it is the 400 years of oppression and exploitation of African people that made it possible for there to even be a City of Philadelphia Budget? Are you so short sighted that you would engage in an unequal partnership with the parasites and criminals of Harrisburg and City Hall, as Nutter has, just to benefit from crumbs of stolen loot from the African community? Are you just content to have jobs as teachers in a school system that attacks the very identities of African children – just as long as the budget cuts end and taxes stay at a reasonable level? Are you content to keep your jobs as social workers in a foster care system that destroys African families everyday? Are you that naive to believe that the same forces who commit atrocities against African, Palestinian and other oppressed people every day for profit will not do the same thing to you? Are you that arrogant that you will not unite against Nutter unite under the leadership of African working and poor people, whose oppressive relationship with this system makes it possible for there even to be a budget? Clearly it would be foolish to cast our hopes and confidence in a system that not only is built on oppression of most of the world’s population, but a system that is crumbling right before our eyes – precisely because the oppressed are rising up and resisting! It is time to join in revolutionary resistance. The time for action is now.
African Workers Must Lead March Against Budget Cuts
On Friday, October 2, 2009 the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) is calling on all trade unionists, clergymen, activists, artists, teachers, social workers, city employees, homeowners, renters, progressive, grassroots and pro-independence organizations and lovers of freedom and social justice in Philadelphia and beyond to participate in the “They Say Cutback, We Say Cutback” March where we will march on City Hall raising up demands of reparations and self-determination for African people, not budget cuts and police containment. The march is an act of self-defense against an all out colonial war that the City of Philadelphia is making against the African community, the most recent attack coming in the form of Mayor Michael Nutter’s “doomsday budget” proposal. It is time that we take the offensive and make City Hall defend itself from charges of genocide that African people have brought against it through the Tribunal on Reparations to African People. The march will be followed by InPDUM’s International Convention, which will also be held under the theme “They Say Cutback, We Say Payback! Reparations Now! Independence in Our Lifetime!” The convention will be held on Saturday-Sunday, October 3-4 at the Park Ave Banquet Hall. Through these mobilizations we are specifically calling on all people to unite with the following demands:
- Reparations for the hundreds of years of slavery, colonial oppression, exploitation, terror and deprivations that continue to be experienced by African people to this day. This includes reparations to family members of police murder victims, victims of the sub-prime mortgage scheme and other crimes of genocide being committed against African people in Philadelphia. If City Hall has billions for police and prisons that attack African people then it has billions for reparations and economic development for African people!
- End to the state and municipal budget adjustments in the U.S. of North America that attempt to respond to the economic crisis by cutting benefits and services to the African community while maintaining or increasing resources to occupying army police organizations and other institutions of state repression.
- African community control of schools, police and all the institutions of coercive colonial state power that wreak perennial havoc within our colonized community.
- Restoration of all jobs to African people that have been lost and all social services to the African community whose funding has been cut as a consequence of Nutter’s budget cuts.
- Elimination of any form of employment based in the counterinsurgent war against the African community (ie. prisons and police).
- Hands Off the City Hall 2 — all charges be dropped against Diop Olugbala (fka Wali Rahman) and Shabaka Mnombatha (fka Franklin Moses)
- Impeach Mayor Nutter!
To join the coordinating Committee for the October 2nd march or for more information about the “They Say Cutback, We Say Payback” March and Convention call:
215-459-7551 • email: firstname.lastname@example.org • or visit InPDUM Convention Site
Weekly meetings will are held on Tuesday nights at 7:30PM at 3733 Lancaster Avenue, Philadelphia, PA
African People’s Socialist Party