The African People’s Solidarity Committee sponsored Marches for Social Justice in Oakland, California, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and St. Petersburg, Florida.
In three U.S. cities this fall, a very significant event took place: North Americans (white people) marched in solidarity with the movement for economic and social justice and reparations to the African community.
The March for Social Justice, which raised up the slogan “Stop America’s Other War,” took place in Oakland, California, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and St. Petersburg, Florida during the months of October and November.
Sponsored by the African People’s Solidarity Committee (APSC), the marches called on other white people, especially those who consider themselves progressive, to recognize that even as the U.S. is waging a brutal war against the people of Iraq, the same torturous and genocidal conditions are imposed on the African community right here within its own domestic borders.
The mission of the APSC, which was created by the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP), is to organize in the white communities, building political and financial solidarity for the African liberation movement led by the Party, while working directly under the Party’s leadership. These marches were also fundraisers for the Party.
While tens of thousands of liberal white people have marched in opposition to U.S. attacks on the Iraqi people, there is almost complete silence from the so-called progressive and left sectors about the bloody counterinsurgency that America wages against the African population inside this country. As APSC explained in the brochure advertising for the marches, the U.S. atrocities against the Iraqi people are based on 400 years of enslavement, colonization and oppression imposed on African people inside the U.S.
There was some outcry against the torture of Iraqi people in the Abu Ghraib prison earlier this year. But no North American progressives talk about the fact that the same kind of torture is inflicted on African people in U.S. prisons every day. One of the U.S. military torturers at Abu Ghraib was Charles Graner, a former guard accused of torture at State Correctional Institute Greene, the Pennsylvania super-max prison where political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal is held captive.
APSC’s goal in building the Marches for Social Justice was to bring home to white people this chilling reality, and to expose that it is not necessary to look thousands of miles away to find a reason to protest what the U.S. is doing when the same policies are enforced against African people colonized inside this country.
APSC works to wake North Americans up and make them face the reality that our wealth, power and lifestyle come from the suffering and oppression of African and native people as well as colonized peoples around the world.
Thirty percent of young African men are tied to the U.S. prison system which is nothing but a host of concentration camps for Africans as well as well-oiled money making machines for white capitalists who have tapped heavily into the profitable business of private correctional institutions. And this is done while the government simultaneously brings jobs and economic development to white communities.
Just like the U.S. counterinsurgency in Iraq, the U.S. imposes martial law on African people here, killing hundreds of Africans every year and brutalizing tens of thousands.
Through the marches, APSC also raised the question of where real peace comes from, pointing out that the solutions to the current crisis of imperialism under president George Bush could not be solved by voting him out of office. We live in a system built on slavery, genocide and colonialism and no U.S. president, Democrat or Republican, has any other interest but to maintain and further develop that system.
APSC pointed out that true peace can only come from national liberation for colonized peoples — whether they are Iraqi, Palestinian or African. The peoples of the world are clear that they will get their stolen resources back from the white world by any means necessary.
“Stop America’s Other War” — a powerful stand
For weeks before the three marches, APSC members and supporters were seen out in the streets going door to door or setting up outreach tables, approaching other North Americans to sponsor them to march for social justice. Some marchers raised hundreds of dollars from family, friends and people on the street in this fundraiser that brought in resources and political support for the work of the APSP.
In each city, APSC held events, house meetings, press conferences and media interviews as part of the build-up. “It was really great being out there with a strong political presence in the months leading up to the march,” commented Joel Hamburger, APSC member from Oakland and one of the top fundraisers.
During this period most of the white left was caught up in the election mania. The March for Social Justice gave people an opportunity to see that the solutions to the world’s problems would not be found by voting, but by building a movement in solidarity with the struggle for liberation for African and other colonized peoples who bear the brunt of daily U.S. attacks.
The first of the three marches was held in Philadelphia on Saturday, October 16. According to march organizer and local APSC chair Alison Hoehne, “About 40 people participated in the spirited march through West Philadelphia, including through the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, chanting, ‘We can’t ignore America’s other war!’
“While tens of thousands of liberal white people have marched in opposition to U.S. attacks on the Iraqi people, there is almost complete silence from the so-called progressive and left sectors about the bloody counterinsurgency that America wages against the African population inside this country.”
“This was important because the university is in the process of ousting the African community of West Philly through gentrification, which brings affluent white people in to buy up the houses and drive up African community property values forcing [Africans] out.
“Police brutality and murder are rampant here and the African community catches hell every day. APSC exposed the hundreds of police murders of Africans in Philadelphia over the past 30 years for which no cop has ever been prosecuted. Philadlephia has [a higher] incarceration rate of Africans per capita than any other U.S. city,” Hoehne said.
“It was significant that white people took this stand and the response from many onlookers was good. Hundreds of North Americans made a contribution in support of the campaign for justice and economic development led by the Uhuru Movement.”
As in all the marches, Chairman Omali Yeshitela was the keynote speaker at the rally following the march. Despite rain showers, a crowd of about 75 people gathered in Clark Park to hear the Chairman and the other dynamic speakers.
The rally included Sateesh Rogers, APSP Director of Organizations; Penny Hess, Chair of the APSC; Pam Africa, Chair of International Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal; Lou Fornwald, father of Milo Fornwald, who was murdered by Philadelphia police on June 10, 2003; as well as Rennie Payne, the father of Haile Payne, who was killed by the police on the same day in 2004. Many other powerful speakers, poets and cultural workers spoke.
Despite rain and cool temperatures in Oakland, CA on October 22, APSC held a lively and militant march through the streets of central Oakland in the area around Lake Merritt. The march was accompanied by drummers and led by spirited chant leader and APSC member, Matthew Willis. It got a tremendous response from motorists who honked their horns in support.
Oakland march organizer, Wendy Snyder, noted that participants were not dismayed by being soaked during the march. “More than 40 people stayed for the rally which had to be staged from a tent in Lake Merritt park.”
Powerful presentations were given by Bakari Olatunji, Oakland Uhuru Movement leader; Monica Bernal of Union del Barrio who came from San Diego for the event; and former city councilman Wilson Riles who spoke on behalf of No on Measure Y, a citizens group that is organizing against an initiative to put more city funds into the Oakland Police Department. Quetzaoceloacia from the Barrio Defense Committee of San Jose also spoke. Chairman Omali Yeshitela gave a brilliant presentation calling on white people to take a stand in solidarity with African and other colonized peoples.
Sunday, November 7 was the date of the March for Social Justice in St. Petersburg, Florida. About 80 people joined in the march and about a hundred gathered in Crescent Lake Park for the rally in the town known as the city of African resistance and the international headquarters of the APSP.
It was the weekend following the presidential elections and the political climate was very polarized with many North Americans honking in support while others booed and heckled. A couple of white guys even got out of their pick up truck and attempted to attack the marchers, especially African marchers who were part of the Uhuru Movement contingent.
The rally after the march included presentations by Sheridan Murphy of the American Indian Movement; Mohammad Chehab, Arab Activist; Penny Hess, APSC; Rev. Bruce Wright, homeless activist; and Chimurenga Waller, President of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement. Chris Ernesto of St. Pete for Peace also spoke and spoken word artists L.I.F.E., D-Slack and Lizz Straight performed their poetry.
Chairman Omali Yeshitela’s presentation rocked the park, offending some white people with his challenge to break with liberal white nationalism and pacifism and take a stand in solidarity with African people here and oppressed peoples around the world for national liberation and independence from U.S. imperialism.
As Penny Hess, Chairwoman of the African People’s Solidarity Committee summed up, “The marches for social justice were really important in opening up the eyes of some of the white people who continue to want to keep their heads in the sand while African and colonized peoples around the world are struggling for their very lives.
“The African People’s Solidarity Committee was formed by the African People’s Socialist Party to give North Americans an opportunity to break with our historic unity with parasitic capitalism and imperialism which created wealth and prosperity for us at the expense of African and oppressed peoples.
“APSC gives white people a chance to take a principled stand in solidarity with oppressed humanity with its struggle for liberation and justice. APSC hooks white people up with our genuine interests in unity with the majority of humanity. I believe that the Marches for Social Justice forwarded that strategy and made an important impact.”