From the confines of Oklahoma’s prison system: an open letter to Chairman Omali Yeshitela

I greet you from the confines of Oklahoma’s prison system—Uhuru!

I first became aware of you behind the walls of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary when I was sent there in 1991 at the age of 19. Shortly after I came to prison, a brother let me read an issue of The Burning Spear, and it was through reading this newspaper that I learned about you as the Chairman of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) and the leader of the Uhuru Movement.

As I read The Burning Spear, I was really enthused by it. The articles in it provided me with news about what was going on with African people throughout America and around the world and analyses of current events and world affairs. Your speeches and commentary really spoke to me about colonialism, imperialism and capitalism, Black Power and the African Revolution of the Sixties. I had never read any newspaper like this.

From reading The Burning Spear, I went on to read pamphlets and books by you such as “Colonialism: The Major Problem Confronting Africans in the U.S.”; “Stolen Black Labor: The Political Economy of Domestic Colonialism”; “The Struggle For Bread, Peace And Black Power”; “This Time Till It’s Won…Power In Our Own Hands” and “Izwe Lethu I Afrika!”

These tracts and books acquainted me with the etiology of the oppression of Africans in America as they explained how we had been colonized through enslavement and subjugated, dominated and exploited by colonialism.

Before this, I didn’t even know what colonialism was, but I learned that it was the term for the foreign domination that Africans were under in America–where we have always been subjected to the rule, authority, control, power and laws of the Americans and been systematically oppressed by them.

I had lived under American rule all of my life, so I saw how the Americans reigned over us and how we were subordinate to them. I just didn’t know that this was called colonialism.

It was through reading your writings that I began to understand the colonial situation of Africans in America for the first time. I also started to understand our struggle against colonialism with the fight for basic rights, freedom, national liberation and self-determination in the Civil Rights Movement and the African Liberation Movement that represented the American-front of the African Revolution.

I learned how it was defeated by the colonial government’s counterinsurgency that left leaders like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Fred Hampton and George Jackson dead from assassination before it shifted to target the entire African colony and flooded it with drugs to de-stabilize it with narcotization to prevent us from ever revolting against colonialism and fighting for independence again.

Through your writings, I also discovered the theory of African Internationalism that you had developed. It posited that capitalism and its world economy originated from colonialism through the slave trade and slavery. Colonialism was the source and very lifeblood of capitalism just as racism was the ideology of colonialism.

What is more, it posited that Africans were one nation of people who had been forcibly uprooted from Africa and dispersed all over the world by the slave trade. Our struggle against colonialism was a single fight for freedom, liberation, independence and self-determination in Africa and the African Diaspora that constituted the worldwide African Revolution.

African Internationalism not only explained how the world came to be the way it was with oppressor and oppressed nations and why Africans were downtrodden all across the globe, but it also enabled me to understand the contemporary world and all of its iniquities. It gave me a worldview, ideology and philosophy as an African in prison.

As the Chairman of the APSP and the leader of the Uhuru Movement, you were an African leader unlike any other that I had ever known in my life. Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Frantz Fanon, Amilcar Cabral and Thomas Sankara were gone, but you were still here continuing the same struggle against imperialism and capitalism that they were engaged in during their lifetime and fighting for the same cause for African Liberation to which they had dedicated their lives.

You were the very first leader alive whom I had come to admire and respect in my life. As a veteran of the African Liberation Movement, you lived through all of the repression that the counterinsurgency had unleashed against it and you had seen all of the assassinations, murders and frame-ups and even been arrested and imprisoned yourself, but after it was crushed, you didn’t repudiate the African Revolution to join the colonial system or sell out the African masses to serve your own interests as others like Eldridge Cleaver had done.

You remained committed to the African Revolution and the cause of African Liberation, and so you worked tirelessly to rebuild the African Liberation Movement to complete the African Revolution just as you continued to lambast colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism and capitalism.

This showed me that you were uncompromising and unwavering in your commitment to freedom, revolution and socialism. I was really impressed by you.

As far as I could see from prison, you were the leading revolutionary, political leader and theorist of our time. So as I was locked in a cell, you inspired me. You fired my anti-colonialism and you gave me a cause to believe in for the first time in my life.

Your writings filled me with righteous indignation at the tyranny, oppression, exploitation, poverty, misery, brutality and injustice that Africans had been suffering for centuries as a result of colonialism.

At a time when I saw nothing but a bunch of petty bourgeois Negroes masquerading as leaders in America, it was really encouraging to see a leader like you who was the complete opposite of those black skin, white mask-wearing, spineless, lickspittle, knee-bending, bootlicking Negroes who were nothing but the servants and stooges of colonialism.

It was just really heartening to know that our people still had a leader who spoke and fought for the African working class and who wanted us to be free of imperialist domination and capitalist exploitation once and for all.

From prison over the ensuing three decades I watched you continue to lead the APSP and the Uhuru Movement. I watched you out on the front lines of the struggle against colonialism: speaking out against the oppression, exploitation, criminalization and imprisonment of Africans as well as police brutality and other colonial violence and terror we face on a daily basis.

I saw you exposing the colonial mode of production that keeps us poor and impoverished while it continues to enrich the colonizers, pushing campaigns for reparations, advocating for political prisoners and prisoners of war, serving the people, winning the hearts and minds of the masses and organizing and mobilizing them to fight for independence and self-determination in our lifetime.

Now, 30-plus years after I first became aware of you in prison, you are still leading the APSP as the Vanguard and Advanced Detachment of the African working class and forwarding the African Revolution in an era of the deepening crisis of imperialism. It is really great to see you still going strong after all of these years and not backing down in the face of the latest attacks on the Uhuru Movement by the counterinsurgency.

As I remain in prison, I uphold you as the Chairman of the APSP and the leader of the Uhuru Movement. I also recognize you as the leader of the African Revolution. I totally believe in and fully support everything that you and the Party have been fighting for over the past 50 years—freedom, independence, self-determination, reparations and socialism, the overthrow of imperialism and the liberation of African people and the unification of Africa. I completely unite with the APSP and the Uhuru Movement.

Since I am in prison I am not able to be on the ground in the African colony working with the APSP and the Uhuru Movement as I have long wanted to do, but I do work from behind these razor-wire, electrified fences where I ground with Africans; talk about what’s going on with them; discuss colonialism and imperialism with them; circulate The Burning Spear among them; introduce them to African Internationalism; provide them with your books like “Omali Yeshitela Speaks,” “An Uneasy Equilibrium” and “Vanguard”; and organize them.

I tell brothers in here about you and the Uhuru Movement so that they will know that we have a true revolutionary leader fighting for the freedom of our people and an independence movement is going on out there in the African colony.

America’s prisons are nothing but concentration camps for Africans just as imprisonment has always been part of our captivity under colonialism. So we must fight colonialism and its oppression, repression, brutality and injustice and educate and organize in the colonizing nation’s prisons just as Africans must do out there in the African colony.

This is what I have been doing since I have been in prison, where I became socially aware and politically conscious and where I was forged into a revolutionary in the bowels of the colonial prison system.

As I languish in prison, I thirst for freedom as an African held captive by colonialism, and I fight with the dogged determination to persist, persevere and prevail over my captors. I remain unbowed and unbroken like a Maroon who resists colonialism to break the chains of his captivity.

From behind enemy lines, I salute you Chairman Omali as the leader of the African Revolution through which Africans are going to liberate ourselves and eradicate the imperialist-capitalist system because we are the grave diggers of colonialism and capitalism that arose from our enslavement and has rested on a pedestal of slavery ever since.

Until freedom is won, the struggle continues!

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