Fight for Black Power: Free All Political Prisoners! – The Black is Back Coalition’s 11th Annual Conference

The Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations’ “Fight for Black Power: Free All Political Prisoners” virtual banner, for the 11th Annual Conference. Featured political prisoners (left to right): Edward Poindexter, Mutulu Shakur, Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown), Leonard Peltier, Sundiata Acoli, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Jaan Laaman, Jalil Muntaqim and Azeez Abdul.

United States—On August 15 and 16, 2020, the Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations (BIBC) held our 11th Annual Conference, themed “Fight for Black Power: Free all Political Prisoners!”

The Annual Conferences allow for the membership of the Coalition, as well as all Conference attendees to receive reports on the work of the Coalition since the Conference prior. This includes the work done by the Coalition as a whole, the work of the Coalition’s Working Groups and the work done by organizations of the Coalition in the name of the Coalition itself.

Amongst all of the work reported were the Coalition’s April 11 and 12, 2020 “The COVID-19 Pandemic: Black People Fight Back” special webinar; April 25, 2020 “Death Sentence! The State of Louisiana, Black Prisoners & COVID-19” one-hour special webinar; and July 13 and 14, 2020 4th Electoral Campaign School, titled “The Ballot and the Bullet: Putting Self-Determination on the Ballot.”

Self-determination includes the release of African political prisoners

The African People’s Socialist Party’s (APSP) Chairman Omali Yeshitela, who is also the Chair of the Black is Back Coalition, provided the opening presentation. He spoke to the history of the Coalition:

“The Coalition is the oldest, the first, revolutionary African response to the question of war and peace. Our founding was also a response to the fact that we have seen, in the past up until even this day, the so-called ‘peace movement,’ ‘anti-war movement,’ was able to talk about ‘peace’ and ‘opposition to war’ only when it came to recognizing the wars that the United States government or other imperialist powers recognized as ‘valid.’ When it came to what was happening to African people throughout this country there was no recognition of war coming from the ‘peace movement…’ We initiated a conference and mobilization called Peace Through Revolution.”

The Chairman also spoke to the theme of the Conference itself by highlighting Point #4 of the Black is Back Coalition’s 19-Point Platform, titled the National Black Political Agenda for Self-Determination:

4. Free All Political Prisoners. This includes ‘politicized’ prisoners who may have originally been imprisoned for non-political reasons, but whose achieved political consciousness after imprisonment resulted in political acts or statements that were punished by specialized treatment and, sometimes, additional prison time. The definition of political prisoners is also extended to all those activists and militants who have been detained or arrested during the most recent wave or resistance in places like Ferguson, Missouri; Baltimore, Maryland; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We reject the authority of the U.S. State to imprison persons whose imprisonment is rooted in their defense of black people’s democratic and self-determination rights. black people ourselves have the right and responsibility to designate those individuals and categories of prisoners to be immediately released from U.S. confinement and control.”

He addressed the contradiction of the United States government lying about not having political prisoners when, in fact, they have African political prisoners as part of an attack on the black community and the Black Revolution of the 1960s.

The day continued with a presentation on the theme by Glen Ford, a founding member of the Coalition, and Working Group reports by their respective Chairs: Diop Olugbala, Black Community Control of the Police; Ralph Poynter, Political Prisoners; Betty Davis, Education; and Lisa Davis, Health Care.

Day One ended with a last presentation from the Louisiana United International, an organizational member of the Black is Back Coalition, and an opportunity for the attendees to participate in a question and answer period with all of the presenters.

“When people unite and band together, there is so much you can do.” – Janine Phillips Africa

Day Two began with a panel discussion titled after the theme of the Conference. This panel included presentations from several members of the BIBC’s Steering Committee: Chairman Omali Yeshitela, African People’s Socialist Party (APSP); Ralph Poynter, Lynne Stewart Committee; Jihad Abdulmumit, Jericho Movement; Minister Belinda Parker-Brown, Louisiana United International (LUI); Reverend Edward Pinkney, Black Autonomy Network Community Organization (BANCO); and Yejide Orunmila, African National Women’s Organization (ANWO).

The panelists each made moving presentations, explaining the attacks made on the black community by imprisoning those who have stood up on the front lines of the struggle for black liberation.

It was also made clear by Chairman Omali Yeshitela that even as the Conference placed a special emphasis on our brothers and sisters who stood on the front lines of the struggle for Black Power, all imprisoned Africans are political prisoners. It is the colonial State that created the conditions for us to be imprisoned.

After the panel discussion, Sister Janine Phillips Africa, Minister of Education for the MOVE organization and a member of the MOVE 9, made a presentation on her experience as a political prisoner:

“I’m one of the MOVE 9, who was just released from prison after 41 years for a crime we did not commit…They gave all of the MOVE 9 30 to 100 years, said that since we acted like a family, they’re sentencing us as a family. They told us and my family that we would never get out of prison. Our family and the people all across the country and outside of this country never stopped fighting, never gave up, and that’s why I’m sitting here today doing this conference with you…”

Support black political prisoners!

Sister Janine’s presentation was followed by a very moving panel that looked at how families were affected by their members becoming political prisoners of the United States government.

This panel began with a video of a past interview of Kakuya Shakur, daughter of Assata Shakur and was followed by Sister Carolyn Lake, widow of Mafundi Lake; K’Sisay Sadiki, daughter of Kamau Sadiki; Michael “Mike” Africa Jr., son of Michael Africa of the MOVE 9; and Russell Shoatz Jr. son of Russell Shoatz.

The closing panel for the Conference was a discussion titled “Support Political Prisoners (What You Can Do),” which featured Chairman Omali Yeshitela, Ralph Poynter, Jihad Abdulmumit and Minister Belinda Parker-Brown.

Brother Jihad presented the “Write-a-Prisoner” and “Adopt a Prisoner” programs of the Jericho Movement, with pictures and information of several political prisoners.

Chairman Omali called on all attendees of the conference to purchase the 24 x 36 inches “Free All Political Prisoners” posters being put forward by the Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations, and post them up throughout our respective cities and states.

The Black is Back Coalition put the question of black political prisoners back to the forefront of the revolution and highlighted it as a part of the struggle for Black Power and African liberation.

Free All Political Prisoners!

Free Black Political Prisoners!




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