The United Nations’ working group of experts on people of African descent carried out a four-city, fact-finding tour throughout the United States from January 19 to 29, 2016, with visits to Jackson, Mississippi; Chicago, Illinois; New York City, New York; and Washington, D.C.
The working group consisted of Ricardo Sunga, Sabelo Gumedze and Mirielle Fanon Mendes-France.
According to Mireille Fanon Mendes-France—the daughter of deceased revolutionary scholar and psychiatrist Frantz Fanon and head of the panel—the working group set out to “gather first-hand information about the current human rights situation of African-Americans, and follow up on the recommendations to fight racism we made during our last visit to the country in 2010.”
During each city visit the working group heard from a host of non-governmental organizations, activists, lawyers, elected officials, and the like. The African working class was, however, noticeably absent from the discussions.
Herdosia Bentum, President of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM), led the #AfricansChargeGenocide Winter Encampment Tour, which worked to push the Africans Charge Genocide Petition in each city and to raise the demands of the African working class before the panel.
President Bentum posted a video to facebook exposing the fact that the United Nations’ working group kept its meetings closed to the masses of African people.
In New York—the state with the highest African population—the working group did not publicize its visit, making it nearly impossible to find the time and location of the hearing.
It goes without question that no effort to gather first-hand information on the conditions of Africans in the United States can be successful without meeting with the African working class who is most impacted and exploited by colonialism and parasitic capitalism.
The (real) work of The People missing in concluding statement
The working group opened their statement by thanking all of the participants at the four hearings and expressed regret for its inability to “meet with all of the high level State and local level authorities requested.”
The group went on to welcome and celebrate the civil rights work and achievements of the State, but did not acknowledge the significant work of the African working class people in drawing such incredible international attention to the conditions of Africans in the United States.
The Fair Sentencing Act, the White House’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, and other State-sanctioned, reformist measures were considered by the working group to be applause-worthy steps towards improvement in the African situation.
The words of African revolutionary and martyr Malcolm X remain important in reminding us that, “you don’t stick a knife in a man’s back nine inches and then pull it out six inches and say you’re making progress.”
Instead of recognizing the African working class, the working group gave praise to “a growing human rights movement which has successfully advocated for social change.”
This does not go far enough in recognizing those everyday working class
Africans who resisted and challenged colonial violence not for the sake of some simple social change, but for a radical disruption in the entire colonial social order.
For it was the African working class, in all its legitimate rage, that exposed the colonial violence committed against Africans in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland by taking to the streets to challenge the occupying forces of local police and the national guard, and setting parasitic capitalist institutions ablaze.
These are 21st century African rebellions that should not go unacknowledged.
Recommendations are useful, but to what end?
The working group concluded its statement with a set of reparatory justice recommendations that are supported by statistical evidence concerning the conditions of Africans.
Many of the statistics highlighted in the statement also appear in our Africans Charge Genocide Petition.
The statement does not cite, however, an estimate that $14.1 trillion in reparations are owed to Africans in the United States. Nor does it identify that the conditions in which Africans live are genocidal.
At the group’s final press conference in Washington, D.C., InPDUM’s President raised an important question regarding how the group will address the genocidal conditions outlined in its statement.
Ricardo A. Sunga III, a panelist from the Philippines, was forced to respond to the question after he and his colleagues passed the mic back and forth amongst each other in their refusal to answer.
In his response he said that the preliminary findings can open space for an important dialogue with the U.S. government.
The Uhuru Movement and InPDUM believes that the set of recommendations put forward by the working group provides a useful foundation for moving forward.
The Movement takes the position that international support for Africans in the U.S. is key for any kind of reparations demand.
We cannot afford to remain short-sighted in our demand for African liberation by engaging in a “constructive dialogue,” as Sunga suggests.
For too long we have allowed our issues to remain localized within the the different countries where us Africans were forcefully displaced, and in this case the U.S., by fighting for State-designed civil rights.
We must define and put forward our own international human rights as Africans.
We must demand reparations for over 400 years of colonial oppression against Africans in the United States within the international arena.
Sign the Africans Charge Genocide Petition!