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The following is part one of three-part series of a transcribed speech which was made by Chairman of the Black is Back Coalition, Omali Yeshitela at the National Black Political Agenda for Self-Determination Preparatory Conference. The conference was held by the Black in Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparation’s on August 17 and 18, 2016.
Here, Chairman Omali takes gives us an overview of the creation of the Black is Back Coalition. He outlines that the Coalition was created in response to the selection of Barack Obama as U.S. president.
Part two of our series will be available next Tuesday, November 1st.
First thing I want to do is introduce myself. I am Omali Yeshitela, I am the Chair of the Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations. We are an organization that was begun on September 12, 2009.
We were organized in Washington, D.C. We were compelled to come together for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the election of Barack Hussein Obama some eight months prior.
It concerned many of the founders of the coalition that many people around the world and inside this country would be confused by the fact that imperialism—U.S. imperialism—historically categorized by white nationalism, rape and plunder of the non-white people around the world, would now have a black face.
We were concerned because there were people all around the world who have known of the struggle of our people historically and have recognized that we have always been on the side of social justice, and of peace. We have always been opposed to oppression, not only our own oppression, but oppression of the peoples around the world.
We have incidents historically where people who were fighting against U.S. imperialism would acknowledge publicly that they recognized that Africans in this country were not a part of the aggression of the United States government against their peoples.
Not an extraordinary example was in 1979 when the people of Iran rose up and overturned the government that was supported and put in place by the United States government––the Shah of Iran.
At that point, when they had captured the U.S. embassy, that they correctly categorized as a “nest of spies,” they offered the African people that were there an opportunity to leave because they recognized the historical relationship of our oppression to their own oppression and exploitation.
This has been something that was historically true and now, finally, we have this representative of white power who has a black face. He looks just like most of the oppressed peoples around the world but he’s carrying out a white nationalist agenda. So it became a real concern.
It became a concern because many of the people who we knew who had gained reputations in the past era of significant struggle as being against imperialism and, being against capitalism, and who called themselves “black nationalists,” and “socialists” and sometimes “black communists,” as well as those who stated that they were a part of the movement for social justice were deeply in the camp of Barack Hussein Obama. They revealed that they were against an oppression as long as it came in a white face.
But the arrival of Obama seemed to suggest to many of them who saw the election of Barack Hussein Obama as a path forward for aspiring African petty bourgeois forces and they were deeply in his camp.
We had a situation where many Africans throughout this country were in a state of near- hysteria because of the election of Barack Hussein Obama.
There were several of us who felt like it was absolutely necessary for our community to make a profound statement. It didn’t matter to us what color the representative of white power happened to be.
It didn’t matter to us the color or gender––black, white, male, female––homosexual, heterosexual. Imperialism is imperialism and we had to make a statement that African people needed to know that it is permissible to be opposed to U.S. imperialism, even if it does have a black face.
So on September 12, 2009 in Washington D.C., we pulled together a meeting of several African groups and personalities and institutions that had demonstrated, many of them, in opposition to the direction of U.S. imperialism, even as it was articulated by Barack Hussein Obama.
We pulled together a meeting of people who came from the Muslim community that was being held in detention.
Africans and Muslims being held in detention throughout this country and then stuck on occupied Cuban territory––Guantanamo Bay. Many people who were just ordinary folk.
Interestingly, some of whom were actually supporters of Obama but who had real problems with his direction of U.S. policy––we came together and we created the Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations.
It was November 7th, where we called for a national rally, march on the White House and a conference in opposition to the Obama regime. It was in fact the first national mobilization against Barack Hussein Obama’s regime––African mobilization.
The Coalition holds that up as just an incredibly significant event. I think that we felt at the time that it didn’t matter if masses of people did support this guy, because we recognized that what we were dealing with, was the consequence that we’re still struggling to correct.
The Black Liberation Movement of the 1960s was crushed. With the assassination of Malcolm X, the assassination of Martin Luther King, and the destruction of the Black Panther Party––with the arrests of hundreds of people swept up off the streets of this country. The movement was replaced with charlatans and hustlers who were in bed with U.S. imperialism.
Time to time they led a liberal, religious rite that they call protest or something to that effect.
And so we had masses of people without the benefit of leadership. There was no Malcolm X, there was no effective Black Panther Party, there was no revolutionary organization that could provide leadership to the masses of our people.
So masses of people fell back on the Democratic party and its representatives and that which comes in various different forms and other liberal and middle class black leadership and the ruling class media.
And what that leadership told us was that the best thing that we had going for us was the fact that Barack Hussein Obama had been selected––and I say selected quite purposely––to become the new president of the United States.
The man who came to that seat with the largest amount of money contributed to the candidate from Wall Street than any candidate in history, who actually had something like a billion-dollar campaign fund, to put himself forward to the world and who won the majority of African people who were so tired of being described, by white power, by the bourgeois media, as incompetent, as being unable to even speak in clear sentences and what have you.
Africans had this vicarious and in many ways incipient, nationalist kind of response to the selection of Barack Hussein Obama. Africans voted for this man––it was important for African people to see this black man standing up with all of these white people being articulated in the face of them. Clearly seeming to be somebody through whom they could show the world that African people were competent.
So this vicarious relationship that we have with Barack Hussein Obama was something that swept the masses of African people into accepting the same imperialist policies that George W. Bush had put forward.
So the coalition came together. We called for the mobilization against Obama.
It was one of the things that helped to dwindle out forces who were incapable in speaking for the interests of black people when that interest was in black face.
Many people were driven to the coalition as Muslims because they were terrified of what was happening in this country because what the United States government had done to neutralize domestic opposition to U.S. foreign policy throughout the Middle East––where they were still killing and maiming people in occupied Palestine.
Where they were intent upon controlling the petroleum resources of the world, and in so doing, control the rest of the world including European imperialist allies through the war, the attack on Iraq and the overthrow and lynching of its president.
The war that was made against Afghanistan had a number of people who were terrified because they were having trials in this country where they were arresting people and refusing even to show them the evidence of any crime that had been committed.
People accepted this because they were easily buying the myth that was being put forth by the Bush regime and others, initially that it was alright to take away all of the democratic rights of the people in defense of what they would call, terrorism, that was coming from other peoples around the world.
So, right before, in public view, there was an ongoing process of actually stealing of basic democratic rights. This is not an empty discussion for African people. We talk about democratic rights and we do so while recognizing that even what is characterized as democracy in the United States, in this century, is something that was defined by the struggle of black people.
It was the Black Liberation Movement, it was the struggle of African people, Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker, sharecroppers and the poor black people that made it necessary for the United States government to even conceive that black people should have any rights and democracy, should even have a broad reach throughout the general population.
So when we saw the United States government using any pretext to attack basic democratic rights, we understood immediately that it was not some abstract struggle that we were involved in but it was a struggle that reached deeply into the essence of freedom for African people and other oppressed peoples around the world. So, it was absolutely necessary for the coalition to intervene in this process.
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