Rock for Reparations: USM members unite to build the culture of reparations

On April 3, Philadelphia Uhuru Solidarity Movement (USM) member Mary Alicia organized a wildly successful virtual rock concert for a Reparations Challenge, which not only raised double its monetary goal but also won new members in the Philly region.

The Reparations Challenge is a campaign of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement that allows for individual white people to take personal responsibility for our historic role as oppressors and acknowledge our complicity in building and maintaining a system founded on slavery and genocide. 

This campaign creates a culture of reparations under the leadership of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) and calls on white people to hold fundraisers for the projects of the APSP like the black self-determination and economic development program, the Black Power Blueprint.

Mary is a talented singer-songwriter/pianist and an active USM organizer who mobilized four other white Philly musicians to rock out for reparations.

Mary kicked off the event with a powerful statement of why she organized this concert for reparations: “As a white musician… I felt it was my responsibility to use music as a way to fund [the Black Power Blueprint]… and to acknowledge that all my musical inspiration can be traced back to black creators. I feel a responsibility to give back for benefitting off their work.” 

Other performances besides Mary’s captivating set included an engaging solo act by Megan Cullinane playing digital bops and synth sounds, followed by compelling performances from three of Philly’s greatest punk/indie bands, Alyssa Milman of Puppy Angst, Kelsey Cork of Kelsey Cork and the Swigs and Emily Mineo of Lylyly.

The three-hour Zoom concert was packed with great tunes, political education, videos of the Black Power Blueprint and inspiring statements of unity with reparations to African people by the musicians. All performers acknowledged that rock music was stolen from African and Indigenous culture and mimicked by white musicians who made millions throughout their careers.

As Kelsey Cork said “…I’m a rock and roll artist in a rock and roll band and rock and roll was… created by black artists. If you enjoy rock and roll, you should be paying some reparations.” 

Artists like the Beatles, the Clash, Janis Joplin, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Elvis, to name a few, profited off songs of African musicians, most of whom died without ever receiving a penny, let alone recognition. Elvis’s estate, for example, is currently making $23 million a year—the fifth highest paid dead celebrity of 2020—while the majority of African people live off of five dollars or less a day.

Even Pablo Picasso, considered one of the greatest European painters of all time, took much of his influence from African art. His net worth was $200 million. That’s $1.3 billion in today’s money–money that belongs to the African artists from which it was stolen. 

Puppy Angst’s Alyssa Milman united with this stance, stating that “as a white person, I benefit from the system. So I have to do my part…and that includes paying reparations…and that’s why I wanted to do this event.”

Mary talked about the city of Philadelphia dropping a bomb on the MOVE organization in 1985, killing 11 women, children and men, destroying 61 homes and diminishing the power and history of an entire community. It was because of that mass murder that APSP Chairman Omali Yeshitela sent in reinforcements and the Party has been building institutions to assert their power ever since.

Mary continued: “Families are being forced out of their homes…so that luxury housing and universities can be built. It’s also in this city that children in public schools are being poisoned by asbestos and lead…and the city government [isn’t] investing proper funds to resolve the issue.

“At the end of the day, Philadelphia owes reparations now.” 

The evening ended with a powerful statement by Emily Mineo, followed by a captivating performance: “I’m really excited to be raising money for the Black Power Blueprint…[it’s] transforming North St. Louis through renovation, economic development and political power by and for the black community. I’m really happy to be supporting this.

“I believe in paying reparations to the black community.”

Building the culture of white reparations to African people

The Rock for Reparations event was an expression of unity with the understandings put forward by Chairman Omali Yeshitela, who has said, “The political and economic are one.” African people, through the Uhuru Movement, are fighting for self-determination, self-reliance and an independent economy. 

Rock for Reparations was a way of returning the stolen resources we’ve been hoarding in the white community to the revolutionary process of African people reclaiming what is rightfully theirs. Moreover, it was part of building the culture of reparations. 

As white people, we are brought up in a culture of over-consumption at the expense of others. In fact, 11.5 percent of the world’s population is white, yet we consume 80 percent of the world’s resources.

As members of USM, we acknowledge that we are in debt to African people for our culture’s destructive, predatory plunder of Africa’s resources, people, livelihood and land that has brought and kept us up on this oppressor pedestal today. 

Through Chairman Omali Yeshitela’s scientific theory of African Internationalism, we understand that our current white lives only exist because of the violent history of our ancestors and the ongoing genocidal and colonial violence that continues to this day. 

There is violence and oppression inextricably woven throughout white history and culture, from the assault on Africa during the slave trade and the pillage of Indigenous lands, to the police murders of George Floyd, Adam Toledo and countless other colonized peoples.

We can make the choice to sever ourselves from the legacy of the colonizer, pay reparations and refuse to live at the expense of African and colonized people. 

We challenge you to turn your skills into reparations to African people

The Party has inspired other white artists in the past to build the revolutionary culture of reparations. One such example is artist and musician Jackson Hollingsworth, whose song “Reparations Now” opens with the lines:

“We know that we’ve been lied to. / There’s two realities. / There’s the one that we’ve been raised in, / and the one we pretend we don’t see. / We don’t want the guilt but our lives are built on murder, rape and theft.”

White people: Do we want to remain complicit in a violent and oppressive colonial system? Or do we want to take responsibility for our cultural and historical legacy?

As Leah Fifield of USM Minneapolis stated in her presentation at the USM National Convention, “We can choose to be involved in creating a new and truly progressive set of cultural values by repairing the damage of colonial-capitalism through becoming an active member of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement and participating in the Reparations Challenge campaign.”

If you are a white person who no longer wants to be on the side of the oppressor, reparations is the way forward! Reparations is the way for white people to cut ties with our colonial white ruling class—our legacy of the slave master—to join the rest of humanity by returning all the stolen resources that have benefited us for hundreds of years at the expense of African people. 

Show your unity with reparations by hosting your own Reparations Challenge. Whether you make your own jewelry, bike across the country, DJ a dance party or want to host your very own virtual concert, your skills can be used to raise reparations and to forward an anti-colonial culture.

Sign up for the Reparations Challenge at UhuruSolidarity.org/ReparationsChallenge!

Cut ties with our legacy of the oppressor!

Reparations to the African People’s Socialist Party!

Learn more about the Black Power Blueprint at BlackPowerBlueprint.org

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