Black Radical Congress

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The Black Radical Congress was founded in Chicago in 1998.

The call to Congress

In 1996, five veteran activists and scholars - Abdul Alkalimat, Bill Fletcher, Jr., Manning Marable, Leith Mullings, and Barbara Ransby - initiated a round of discussions among themselves regarding the political and social state of affairs facing African Americans and other oppressed communities in the United States. Though the five brought different experiences and political frameworks to these talks, they all located themselves within the broad school of black radicalism. Those discussions would soon port to a larger pool of activists who agreed that not only did a crisis exist, but black radicals also had a responsibility to do something about it.[1]

Freedom Road

During the early 1990s, Freedom Road Socialist Organization made the strategic decision to build organized left poles within the various social movements. Examples included New Raza Left, Asian Left Forum, the Labor Left, and especially the Black Radical Congress.

In the course of doing this kind of work, FRSO adopted in the late '90s ambitious goals for transforming the internal culture and demographics of Freedom Road, to make the organization majority people of color, upping the figures for women, young folks, LGBTQ, and working class people, and "developing these folks as our leadership".[2]

According to leading member Martha Segura New Raza Left is already in communication with the Black Radical Congress and the Asian Left Forum. The three groups have already met to explore a common agenda.[3]

History

In June 1998, radical black activists including many key leaders of the New Party came together in Chicago to form a new organisation-the Black Radical Congress;

It seemed to us the idea of bringing together the varied sections of the Black radical tradition - Socialists and Communists, revolutionary nationalists, and radical Black feminists and womanists - was long overdue. We began talking with others about the idea and possibilities for such a gathering.

In March of 1997, some 70 activists from more than twenty cities across the country came together in Chicago to begin planning for a Black Radical Congress. Participants came as individuals but represented connections to groups ranging from New Afrikan Peoples Organization, Black Workers for Justice, The Labor Party, The Communist Party USA, The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, African American Agenda 2000, The Chicago Ida B. Wells Forum and the Committees of Correspondence.

This group agreed to host a Black Radical Congress and constituted itself as the continuations committee...Three subsequent national meetings of the continuations committee were held in Washington, D. C., in May of 1997, in Atlanta in September, 1997, and in New York City in January of 1998. A "Call for the Congress" was drafted and issued with the names of over 100 conveners.

Some of those who endorsed the call and participated in the process include: Abdul Alkalimat, Bill Fletcher, Jr., Manning Marable, Leith Mullings, Barbara Ransby, Barbara Smith, Cornel West, Salim Muwakkil, Charlene Mitchell, Angela Davis, Amiri Baraka and Amina Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Sam Anderson, Evelynn Hammonds, Julianne Malveaux, Jarvis Tyner, General Baker, Ahmed Obafemi, Cathy Cohen and Robin D. G. Kelley.[4]

The BRC organisers issued a call to support their project;[4]

Sisters and Brothers, we stand at the edge of a new century. The moment for a new militancy and a new commitment to the liberation of all Black people, at home and abroad, has arrived. Let us build a national campaign toward the Black Radical Congress, setting in motion a renewed struggle to reclaim our historic role as the real voice of democracy in this country. Spread the word: Without struggle, there is no progress! Now’s the time!
The Struggle Continues: Setting A Black Liberation Agenda for the 21st Century

Endorsers of the call

Black Radical Congress Endorsers of the Call[5]

Summary of Workshop Sessions

In 1998, The Black Scholar journal published a "special edition" which "focused upon the Black Radical Congress, held June 19-21, 1998, in Chicago. Its introduction to this issue said the following:

"Like the Negro Convention Movement of the 1830s and the Black Power Conferences of the 1960s, the BRC represents a major effort at systematically developing an agenda and path of action for Black America today."
"The BRC meetings this June were characterized by a climate of openness and a new and welcome spirit of dialogue among the over 2,000 participants. Of special importance was the BRC's commitment to bridging the gap between the 1960s generation of activists and the young activists of the 1990s. The result has been a new infusion of ideas, theoretical perspectives, as well as the open discussion of gender issues, which had previously been subtexts in the national black gatherings."
"Much of this success has been due to the continuing commitment of the BRC to the ideal of maintaining a principled unity among its constituents. Readers who are interested in learning more or in participating in the BRC may visit the following website: www.blackradicalcongress.com." - The Editors

A complete list of workshops and participants for the conference is as follows (with Keywiki noting of Communist Party USA CPUSAformer or present members, as well as some who joined the CP-split-off, Committee of Correspondence for Socialism and Democracy COC:

"Beat'em Down and Lock'em Up":State Terrorism, Police Brutality and the Prison Industrial Complex"

"Welfare Reform: The Assault on Black Women and Children"

"Coalition Work"

"The Rich Prosper While the Poor Perish: Economic Justice, Employment and Unemployment"

"Environmental Racism, Housing and Neighborhoods"

"We Demand Reparations: The Growing Movements for Self-Determination, Redress and Freedom"

"Feminism and the Black Liberation Agenda"

"Our Children Are Not Expendable: The Struggle for Quality Accessible Education"

"Racist Ballot Measures in California: Lessons for the National Black Liberation Struggle"

'"Global Issues Are Black Issues: Framing Our Struggle as International and Anti-Imperialist"

"Organizing the South"

"Socialism and Black Liberation"

"Sustaining Community Groups and Institutions"

"Media Workshop Screening and Discussion"

"Faith as a Weapon: Spirituality and the Role of the Church in the Radical Movement"

"Black Radicalism, Black Workers and Today's Labor Movement"

"Youth and Student Organizing: Supporting Those "...Who Have the Courage to Run Against the Storm": The Next Generation"

"Fighting Homophobia - Lesbian and Gay Rights"

"From Mandela to Mumia: Political Prisoners Past and Present"

"Health Care and AIDS"

"Africa American Empowerment and Alternative Electoral Strategies"

"Media Fighting Back"

"International Human Rights and Radical Lawyering"

"Culture and History"

"Chicago's Black Radical Tradition: Living Legends and Future Leaders" Chicago

"Black Studies in the 21st Century: A Computer Lab Internet Workshop"

"Black Radical Media"

"Workshop: Video Screenings and Discussion"

“Forging a Black Liberation Agenda for the 21st Century”

10th Anniversary Meeting of the Black Radical Congress, “Forging a Black Liberation Agenda for the 21st Century” Black Radical Congress, June 20-22, 2008, St. Louis, Missouri.

With the "launch of the Black Radical Congress (BRC) in 1998, a current of optimism rippled through the social justice movement. In the tradition of other black political gatherings such as the National Negro Congress, the National Black Political Convention and other more recent ones, the BRC set out on a mammoth challenge to build unity within the Black Liberation Movement (BLM) and consensus around the Freedom Agenda.

Of the 2000 participants who converged upon Chicago, longtime activist, Larry Holmes noted that they “shared a strong desire that the BRC make a difference in the liberation struggle of African American people. A student from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was one of hundreds of young people who attended the BRC founding conference. Carol Ben Davies admitted that it “was unlike any learning experience” she ever had at college. These views reflected the level of enthusiasm and optimism shared not only by those who came to the Chicago gathering but those who were unable to attend.

In 2001, three years after the historic gathering in Chicago, a delegation of BRC members traveled to South Africa for the World Conference Against Racism and Xenophobia"

We returned in early September to face the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and a predictable imperialist response from the Bush-Cheney administration. We participated in anti-war demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and to call for an end to war-mongering and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The BRC recognized local organizing committees in over a dozen cities. We continued a high level of political discourse and regularly generated political statements that were widely distributed.
There are some fundamental questions that need our principled dialogue and debate: What is the current state of the Black Liberation Movement? What should the BRC look like as an organization to respond to the current crises of our people? What are the concrete conditions facing our people? How do we fund an effective organization with independence and sustainability as guiding principles? How do we hold one another accountable for actions that are undermining or destructive to our movement? How do we organize in the context of neo-liberalism? Are there some lessons we can learn from the advance of the Obama Movement?
We invite you to join the pre-Congress discussion to help re-shape the BRC’s character, direction and strategy for the next ten years. We aim to solidify our collective efforts at the Juneteenth conference (June 20-22, 2008). See you at the University of Missouri-Saint Louis. [6]

Endorsers

Below is the list of endorsers for the Congress;

  • Jamala Rogers, National Organizer National Office - P.O. Box 24795, St. Louis, MO

References