Philadelphia Conference Reasserts Black Radical Tradition
Hundreds of activists, academics and organizers from around the country descended on Temple University, in Philadelphia, January 8-10, for a conference titled “Reclaiming Our Future: The Black Radical Tradition.” The multi-generational crowd heard presentations from Angela Davis, Cornel West, Anthony Monteiro and Charlene Carruthers, of Chicago’s Black Youth Project 100, and took part in panel discussions on the widest range of issues, from war and peace, to police and prisons, to gentrification, queer resistance, and emancipatory culture.
A Devastating Critique of Campaign Zero’s DeRay McKesson
At a panel on “Challenging White Supremacy,” Umi Saleh, the Dream Defenders activist formerly known as Phillip Agnew, said social media provides “an asylum for neoliberal values...at the expense of building real community power.” Saleh blasted Campaign Zero leader DeRay McKesson for “counter-revolutionary and anti-movement” agitation against building grassroots organizations. Too often in social media, “We aren’t fighting white supremacy,” he said, “we are vying for virtual validation.” Twitter-based social media activists like McKesson are “crowned” leaders, but have no notion social responsibility. “Social media cannot replace the work that organizers must do,” said Saleh.
Accountability, New Leadership and Socialism
Veteran organizer Jamala Rogers, author of the new book Ferguson is America: Roots of Rebellion, agreed that “you can’t have a principled debate in 140 characters” on Twitter. “We hold white supremacy accountable, but we don’t hold ourselves accountable,” she said. Activists must address critical questions, such as “Where are the working class leaders that we are developing as a movement?” and “Why aren’t we projecting our aversion to capitalism?” Bernie Sanders, a “gray haired, old white man,” openly espouses socialism, “but we’re scared,” said Rogers.
Fight White Supremacy, Defeat Capitalism
Longtime activist, UCLA history professor and author Robin D.G. Kelly pointed to the “democratic revolutionary vision” of the 1960s National Welfare Rights Organization, the Black Panther and Young Lords parties, and even the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which in 1964 called for a national minimum income, an end to the draft, withdrawal from Vietnam and a boycott of South Africa. Later, however, Black elected officials “helped manage the transfer of wealth to the rich” and promoted schemes for “multiculturalism and diversity” which, ultimately, “do not disrupt white supremacy.” Said Kelly: “You cannot wage an assault on white supremacy without fighting against capitalism.”
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