Uhuru Convention under attack for trying to keep North Philly black!

The International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) is being forced to change the venue location of its 20th Anniversary National Convention to the Songhai City Cultural Center, located at 3117 Master St in Philadelphia, PA. The venue has changed because of ongoing attacks made against InPDUM by the United Methodist Church (UMC), which owns and controls Cookman Methodist Church, the originally designated venue for the Convention.

The attacks began in mid-December, when the UMC had given the former pastor of Cookman, Donna Jones, until New Year’s Eve to shut down all of the social programs she was conducting at Cookman before she was officially ousted for her political work there.  Among those who were directly affected by this attack were the masses of African youth who benefitted from the Freedom School and Teen Center that Jones and Cookman Church had been running out of the building on a shoestring budget.  

In addition to the attack made on African youth, the UMC also attacked the African community’s democratic right to organize for our liberation by threatening to prevent InPDUM from holding its National Convention on February 19-21. 

This attack was pushed back only because InPDUM had secured a contract with the United Methodist Church that ensured, at least on paper, our right to hold the Convention there. Therefore the UMC forces could not outright say that they didn’t want to hold the Convention there.

However, despite the existence of a contract, we are very clear on the fact that the legal question is always subordinate to the political question. And it was clear that the only forces tied to Cookman who were in political unity with holding the Convention there were Donna Jones and her crew, who the UMC had already gotten rid of.  An attempt to hold the Convention would require us to rely on the cooperation of forces that we already knew to be hostile.

This outright hostility began to rear its head on several occasions in the last few weeks. It began with claims from the Cookman Board of Trustees, who are aligned with the UMC, that they were not obligated to uphold a contract that Jones signed. Then when they realized that this argument held no water, they began to claim that the building had no heat and that it was unlikely that there would be heat by the time of the Convention! The problems kept going back and forth to the point where it was clear that the UMC had no intentions of securing comfortable conditions for the Convention.

UMC attack sabotaged community-serving relationship

InPDUM did everything possible to come to a resolution short of sabotaging our own Convention. This was because holding the Convention at Cookman was part of a strategy InPDUM was carrying out to organize the oppressed and exploited African community of North Philly to engage in resistance against the colonial war being waged against it by the government and gentrifying white population.  

The community that surrounds Cookman is one of the poorest in the city, having the second highest child hunger rate in the country. The last public school in the zip code is being shut down this semester and there are at least three police agencies that occupy the area.

This section of North Philly was also an area in which InPDUM had begun to entrench itself among the masses. Our forces had been becoming well known figures in the community. One would be hard pressed to go one week without seeing InPDUM organizers on the Broad Street subway selling The Burning Spear newspaper.

InPDUM had also built strong alliances with key organizations in the community such as the Dollar Boyz.  In fact, InPDUM had even begun teaching political education classes at the Freedom School at Cookman founded by Pastor Donna Jones, shortly before she was ousted by the UMC for her political work. In that process, InPDUM opened up an office at Cookman and used it as a base of operations from which organized struggle in Philadelphia could be waged. All of the assumptions the community has of the Church and our association with it contributed to InPDUM’s security and connection to the masses.

The Convention at Cookman promised to be the rallying point for resistance against the oppression experienced by African people throughout North America. Holding it at Cookman would have energized the poor and oppressed community of North Philly with the sight of African militants coming from all over the country to unite in revolutionary resistance.   

United Methodist Church tied into gentrification in Philly

However, in the final analysis social forces move based on their material interests. InPDUM’s agenda, which represents the interests of the African working class, was in direct conflict with that of the United Methodist Church, a representative of white power. 

As the UMC began to move on Donna Jones and her programs for the youth, it became revealed that the United Methodist Church had long planned to use the Cookman building as real estate to sell to gentrifiers in North Philadelphia. Cookman is only 10 blocks away from Temple University, one of the largest gentrifying forces in Philadelphia. Temple has long been involved in a campaign to buy up as much real estate in the city as it possibly can — especially in North Philly. 

At the same time the United Methodist Church has been involved in its own campaign to shut down its churches located in oppressed African and Latino communities, liquidating them as real estate and funneling more resources to its wealthy white suburban churches.  

It would be political suicide for InPDUM to attempt to hold our National Convention at Cookman. Not only did we risk not having heat and other problems they clearly had no intention on fixing, we would have been risking the possibility of showing up on February 19 to a locked door!  Therefore, we have decided to move the venue site of the Convention to the Songhai City Cultural Center located on 31st and Master Street.

This entire struggle reaffirms for InPDUM the correctness of our stance and has only deepened our resolve to hold the Convention and build a fierce movement of African resistance — a resistance informed by revolutionary strategy. Part of our strategy is responsive to even these types of attacks, recognizing that even those Africans who are tied to the Church must resist.  This is the basis for the special workshop on the Role of Religion in Revolution at the Convention.

Let it be known however, that our struggle with the United Methodist Church has not been resolved simply because we are holding the Convention somewhere else. And it will not be resolved until Cookman Church and the entire African community is declared by the Revolution as liberated territory and every penny that the capitalist colonialist church has stolen from black people has been returned. 

This is why our Convention must happen.

This is a call to all lovers of freedom and social justice to stand with InPDUM and demand the right to hold our National Convention at Cookman Methodist Church on Feb 19-21.

What You Can Do:

Attend the InPDUM 20th Anniversary Convention at the NEW LOCATION:

Songhai City Cultural Center
3117 W. Master Street
Philadelphia, PA 19121
Take #15 trolley to 29th and Girard

Register Today at inpdum.org

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