Black Left Unity

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Black Left Unity was an alliance of Black Acivists, mainly associated with the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, and Workers World Party.

“Black Left Unity Conference”

Black activists from around the country participated in a “Black Left Unity Conference” held at the Sonja Haynes Stone Black Culture and History Center May 30-June 1, 2008 on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The intergenerational gathering of activists came together to continue the discussion on how to build an effective Black United Front in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina/Rita.

Part of the call for this conference reads: “Back in June 2007 at the U.S. Social Forum, over 50 brothers and sisters gathered in Atlanta to discuss the state of the Black liberation movement and the role of the Black left. Most agreed that the Gulf Coast/Katrina disaster is a defining moment that requires that Black revolutionaries unite and work to build a National Black United Front, its initial focus being the development and support of a Gulf Coast Reconstruction Movement. This movement would be a part of a strategic flank of the wider National Black Liberation Movement.

“Since the Atlanta meeting, many of us have engaged in numerous gatherings and actions in our local and regional areas as we develop direct support for the Gulf Coast and its Reconstruction Movement.
“At the August International Tribunal on Katrina and Rita held in New Orleans, some of us again came together and initiated the ‘We Charge Genocide Campaign.’ This campaign was initiated to promote the findings of the International Tribunal on Katrina and Rita, which indicted the U.S. government for committing Crimes Against Humanity for its role in causing the massive deaths, dispersing, suffering and repression against the majority Black and working-class people in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast and to expose the many conditions of national oppression of Black people throughout the U.S.
“We also initiated the Green Ribbon Campaign in direct response to HUD and the New Orleans City Council’s plan to demolish public housing in New Orleans, another direct act that will continue to prevent poor and working class Blacks from coming home. Wearing of a Green Ribbon also represents a People’s Vigil and symbolizes our human right to land and housing and protests the stealing of the land and homes by the big real estate, banks and moneyed interests.”[1]

A Call to the Black Left

Back in June 2007 at the U.S. Social Forum, over 50 brothers and sisters gathered in Atlanta to discuss the state of the Black liberation movement and role of the Black Left. Most agreed that the Gulf Coast/Katrina disaster is a defining moment that requires that Black revolutionaries unite and work to build a National Black United Front. It’s initial focus being the development and support of a Gulf Coast Reconstruction Movement. This movement would be a part of a strategic flank of the wider National Black Liberation Movement.

We are inviting you to join this effort and would like to include your name on the Call as an official endorser and participant of a National Gathering of Black Leftist to be sent out to others inviting their participation. The Gathering will be held at the Sonja Hayes Stone Center for Black Culture and History on the UNC Campus in Chapel Hill, NC on May 30 – June 1, 2008.

Endorsers – Organization names for identification purposes only:

Black Left Unity December 2013

Blun.jpg

Group portrait at the conclusion of the December 21, 2013 Black Left Unity Network meeting. Seated, left to right: Ajamu Dillahunt, Saladin Muhammad, Abdul Alkalimat, Ashaki Binta, Kathy Knight. Standing, left to right: Roger Newell, J. R. Fleming, T. Menelik Van Der Meer, Dennis Orton, Kia Van Der Meer, Sam Anderson, Shafeah M'Balia, Rose Brewer, Anthony Monteiro, Toussaint Losier, Rukiya Dillahunt, Taliba Obu, Jonathan Stith, Carl Redwood, Tdka Kilimanjaro, Jamal Oliver, Akinjele Umoja.

The Black Activist

The Black Activist is the journal of the Black Left Unity Network.

Editorial working group: Abdul Alkalimat, Sam Anderson, Rose Brewer, T. Menelik Van Der Meer, Saladin Muhammad.[4]

Attendees

Those who attended the conference included Saladin Muhammad, Black Workers for Justice and the Black Workers League; ILWU Local 10 leader Clarence Thomas; activist and poet, Amiri Baraka; Million Worker March leader, Brenda Stokely; Ana Edwards, Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality; Ajamu Baraka, U.S. Human Rights Network; Patrisse Cullors, Labor Strategy Center; Efia Nwangaza; Theresa El-Amin; Kali Akuno from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement; Jaribu Hill, Mississippi Workers for Human Rights; Vickie White, People’s Organization for Progress; labor organizer, Angaza Laughinghouse; Larry Adams, New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW); cultural artist, Luci Murphy; educators Muntu Matsimela, T. Menelik Van Der Meer and Sam Anderson; Yvette Modestin, Afrocaribenas y de la Diaspora; Colia Clark; and activists representing Fight Imperialism-Stand Together (FIST) and the Troops Out Now Coalition.

The conference delegates agreed to continue the various ways to consolidate the building of a Black United Front on a regional level in the coming months.[5]

Kazembe Balagun report

Kazembe Balagun's report on Black Left Unity conference.

On the weekend of May 31-Jun 1,2008, dozens of African American organizers, artists and activists convened the first Black Left Unity(BLU) Meeting at the Sonia Hayes Center in Chapel Hill, NC.The gathering was a continuation of the Black Left Unity caucus that meet in Atlanta during the US Social Forum.

As the BLU statement reads "[In Atlanta] most agreed that the Gulf Coast/Katrina disaster is a defining moment that requires that Black revolutionaries unite and work to build a National Black United Black United Front….. and support a Gulf Coast Reconstruction Movement."The

goals of the conference were to explore the history of the Black liberation Movement(BLM), assess the current political situation as well as looking at the BLM as part of a wider fight back against war and racism.

Participants ranged from independent political activists to members of the Workers World Party, Miami Workers Center, the Los Angeles Labor Strategy Center, Mississippi Workers Center, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Black Workers for Justice and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. Meeting in North Carolina not only provided a geographical advantage for both East Coast and southern activists but a historical grounding as well. North Carolina was the site of the first "sit-ins" in Greensboro, NC as well as the training ground for activists such as Ella Baker. Today, North Carolina is continuing the radical tradition through organizations like Spirit House, UBUNTU, El Kilombo Collective and a number of farming co-operatives.

Coming some ten years after the historic Black Radical Congress in 1998, the BLU gathering was an attempt to articulate the challenges and opportunities facing the Black liberation movement.

The opening plenary featured Brenda Stokely, Patrisse Cullors, Jay Woodson and Yvette Modestin. Brenda Stokely gave a brief history of the history of the Black radical left.

Patrisse Cullors give, in my opinion the best presentation of the opening panel, looking at the Black left through the lens of globalization.The Black community is subject to the neo-liberal demands placed on the Third World. As such, a Black left fight back must include issues of the environment as well as questions of economics. The Labor Strategy Community Center serves a good starting point in terms of thinking about means of what it means to synthesize organizing practice alongside a strong media strategy.
These problems reflect the overall orientation of the conference organizers who tended to come from more traditional Marxist Leninist backgrounds, who haven't developed positions on how questions of gender, youth and queerness play a fundamental role in defining what is Black.
This question, was taken up in part by the legendary poet and activist Amiri Baraka. In reference to the question of Obama, Baraka questioned the sincerity of "symbolic politics" over real work. Do we as a Black left continue on the sidelines, decrying, or are we actually developing movements on the ground?[6]

Green Ribbon Campaign

The Green Ribbon Campaign: Justice for Katrina & Rita Survivors was promoted by Black Left Unity.

Green Ribbon.JPG

Green Ribbon Demands:

  • The Right of Return for the Black majority to New Orleans
  • Affordable housing for all – Stop the demolition of public housing Now!
  • Pass Senate Bill 1668 – The Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act of 2007: This bill currently sits in the Senate Committee of Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Contact North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole at 866-420.6083 and urge her to push for the Passage of this bill
  • Stop the police and government harassment and brutality against peaceful protests
  • Free the Jena 6!

From a Black Left Unity Google group;

Liz Derias
1/6/08
update from bay on jan 26th solidarity effort
Thanks for this bro Saladin and for sending out the poster Menelik...this is liz from Oakland mxgm here...im going to try and be on the call today for the national solidarity group, but in the event that im not, i wanted to give an update on the solidarity work thats been jumpin off in the bay.
Last week a group of organizations (incl MXGM, the School of Unity and Liberation, St. Peter's Housing Committee, the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, the Katrina Solidarity Network, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Just Cause Oakland, Center for Political Education, Catalyst Project, and Partnership for Immigrant Leadership and Action ) got together to plan for the Jan 26th Global Day of Action. We decided that our action will be at Senator Dianne Feinstein's home on that day, primarily demanding that she move on SB 1686 (the other Gulf Coast reconstruction demands will be part of the programme that day also).
This action will be a chance to push our demands to feinistein, to deepen relationships and alliance among orgs in the bay, to bring together members of local mass based orgs, to build black leadership, to to keep Gulf Coast reconstruction in the media, and to link the bay to the national campaigns (such as the green ribbon campaign and the we charge genocide work). In addition we will be trying to meet w/ Barabara Lee's folks (an effort initiated by the Katrina Solidarity Network), and pushing folks to make calls to Vidder and other congress persons.
Its a good first step what we have going here, and I'll continue to keep folks updated, and Im sure Tim from the KSN and Alicia from POWER will also.
~Liz
Minutes of meeting
Rough minutes of Black left call January 5, 2008
Participants:
Assignments:
Mark-Anthony Working on Vitter cartoon that can be used widely to push for support of S 1668 and beat up on Vitter - to make clear that politicians that wrong the people will have to pay. Looking at putting Vitter in a bulldozer knocking down public housing with a caption like "Housing is a Human Right", "This is a Crime Against Humanity", "We Charge Genocide."
Menelik We Charge Genocide Poster and sent out.
Saladin Green Ribbon Campaign flyer update with 4 point program/demands and sent out.
Area activities:
New York held a press conference on 12/28 announcing the Regional Survivors Assembly on Jan 12, 2008 for parts of Northeast - New York, New Jersey, Philly, Connecticut, etc. Outreach to POP in New Jersey as a key group. Have raised some funds to help with organizing the Assembly. Councilman Baron involved and wearing Green Ribbon.
Bay Area help planning meeting on 1/3 to hold action on 1/26 at Sen Finstein's house to sign on and push for passage of S 1668, initiate Green Ribbon. Target Clinton and Obama who are co-sponsors of s 1668. Solidarity Network discussing holding regular vigils. Looking at pressing Sen's Boxer, Obama and Clinton all listed as co-sponsors of S 1668. Trying to get Barbara Lee to engage more beyond the letter she and Maxine sent to Bush.
L.A. The Labor Community Strategy Center discussing how to get base involved. Looking at at least 10 groups to get to endorse the Green Ribbon Campaign. Will be holding a conference with students - 500 or more called Weapons of Choice dealing with their campaign from the "Highschools to the Prisons" and will introduce the Green Ribbon. Also dong a political cartoon showing sen Vitter in a bulldozer demolishing public housing with caption like Crimes Against Humanity to be used as part of a national campaign to pressure for the passage of s 1668.
Rocky Mt Held Vigils at city halls in Durham on 1/3 and Rocky Mt on 1/4. Passed out flyer and got people to wear Green Ribbons. Both samll, but good energy and potential for increased involvement by continued out reach to community, faith-based and labor organizations. Distributed Green Ribbons at a Kwanza event. Was a good response! Saladin talked with Congressman GK Butterfield about opposing demolition and participating in a press conference with groups in his district calling on HUD to stop the demolition of public housing, to create affordable housing and to urge the CBC to become more visible. He agreed to participate in a press conference. We will work on pulling signers on a letter to GK and other groups together before end of Jan to see about holding press conference. Wrote GK a follow up letter and asked him to endorse the Green Ribbon, wear it and promote it in the congress.
Boston Got out Green Ribbons at Kwanza events. Good response Checking on prices for We Charge Genocide posters.
Richmond, VA Published article in the Defenders Newspaper - Housing crisis from New Orleans to Richmond. Will have radio series on housing crises will introduce Green Ribbon.
New Jersey The Workers World Newspaper did article in current edition on New Orleans housing struggle, included the We Charge Genocide Poster and the Green Ribbon. Will be continue using paper to promote the struggle.
Green Ribbon Campaign
People felt that the Green Ribbon Campaign can be built widely and become a signature piece for keeping attention on the struggle for Reconstruction in the Gulf Coast and the pressing issues like affordable housing.
Brenda W Talking to AFSCME Dist Council 37 and labor organizations
Johnnie S Need to add Green Ribbon to next We Charge Genocide post printing. We need to do a 1 minute youtube and radio PSA on the Green Ribbon and send out to various media contacts. Also opt-ed for media contacts, especially Black media.
Menelik We need to get a survivor family in New Orleans to do a brief youtube type appeal asking people to wear the Green Ribbon and not to forget the survivors to promote widely.
Pressure points:
People felt that Alphonso Jackson needs to be a definite target, including a poster of this chump - something like "I went to sleep Black and woke up (?)" I forgot how he woke up and didn't want to insert my evil thinking. People felt that all of the senators on the committee and those signing onto the bill and I should be approached in someway about actively pushing for the bills passage out of the committee and beyond.
People felt that our efforts should take the form of being present at places where these officials and presidential candidates are speaking, being honored, etc to raise questions, demand they take a stand, etc. We need to "bird dog" them! We should give some report on who we are targeting in our areas.
Black Left Meeting:
There was agreement on need to hold a Black left meeting. There was debate on possible location and whether it should be held in conjunction with a National Survivors Assembly. Some felt that there were no indications of a readiness or capacity among forces in NOLA to convene such an Assembly in the near future. Some felt that it is part of the responsibility of the Black left and Katrina Solidarity Network to help organize such an Assembly. All felt that a National Survivors Assembly is needed, but agreed that a Black left meeting and Survivors Assembly should probably be organized at different times. We should certainly identify Black left survivors/activist to participate in a meeting.
A planning committee was formed including Brenda Stokely, Menelik, Ana Edwards and Tim Thomas. Brenda/Nsia will send out a draft proposal for discussion and refinement to get the ball rolling. The Planning Committee will hold a call on 1/22/08. A report on work of Planning Committee will be made on Black Left call on 2/2/08.
If I left anything important out please add and make any corrections.
Saladin[7]

Left Forum 2010

The Left in a Post-Racial United States:

References