The Neighbor Program is a "Pan-African Socialist Organization committed to serving the people & loving our neighbor." Founder Jordan MacGowan speaks to Roberto Sirvent.
Roberto Sirvent: Can you please share a little about Neighbor Program, including how it began and what theories and practices ground the movement?
Jordan McGowan: Neighbor Program officially began in July 2020 but truthfully we date back to 1967 when my father was kidnapped away from his community in San Francisco and forced to fight in the Vietnam War and was dropped in Khe Sanh during the middle of January 1968 at the start of the Tet Offensive. After surviving that trauma of two purple hearts in 13 months, watching countless young men be slaughtered on both sides and being flown home “from the bush in 72 hours” as he would say and left without any type of help or assistance. So when within two weeks of my father coming home from Nam the SF Panther chapter came to visit my grandmothers’ house to recruit him, he obliged. My father was involved in some capacity with the Panthers for some time until he was court martialed for treason based on a letter to a wounded comrade speaking of how the government was lying to the People about the war back in the states. After he beat the case and at the advice of the feds, his attorney, and his mama he decided to walk away and live a quiet life. That is where Neighbor Program comes from. My father instilled in me a strong belief in the need to work for Our People, and I knew I always would. That is what drove me to become an educator and coach; and when COVID put coaching college football (which was where I saw myself helping for our people) on hold for me, I filled that time with serving the community in another way. This work has absolutely been guided by God and the Ancestors to something bigger than I ever imagined. During the 2020 Uprisings I didn't see any organizations in Nisenan Land (Sacramento) doing any type of political education work around Black Liberation which worried me, so I began some free political education/community learning classes in the summer of 2020 (Black Power 101 & Decolonize The Classroom). Also the work that my good friends and college teammates Delency Parham & Kelly Mitchell were doing with People’s Programs (at that time People’s Breakfast Oakland) influenced me to start Neighbor Programs first program - our breakfast program with the help of a college friend Elise Carroll. I knew that from the jump that Neighbor Program would be modeled after the Panthers and the 10 Point Program based on my understanding of the politic and family history. In July 2020 we began officially feeding people under the banner Sac Neighbor Program, really beginning our work as Neighbor Program and all the other programs and things have flown from the Panthers model which was always the initial goal.
There are a few foundational texts for us that inform our politic, practice and how we move. Our name Neighbor does come from the Christian Bible; Luke 10:25-37. “R/evolution is Love” by Assata Shakur is the next most influential text to who we are and what we believe in. Obviously the Panther’s 10 Point Program is a HUGE influence and what we believe in the blueprint for building self-determination for Our People inside the empire of amerikkka and obviously Malcolm X(el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz) and Kwame Ture as well, are both HUGE influences over our Pan-Afrikanist ideology. Malcolm really being the father of modern Afrikan resistance ideology within the empire of amerikka and demonstrating how we can and should be building with Continental Afrikans. Ture putting these theories into praxis by going back to The Continent and participating in liberation struggles while staying attached to the Afrikan struggle in amerikkka as well. Ture teaching us the “highest form of Black Power is Pan-Afrikanism.”
Jalil Muntaqim’s We Are Our Own Liberators provides an outstanding blueprint and theoretical framework for building out programs. These texts as well as others from Nkrumah, Biko, Sankara, Jackson and countless others guide our work.
You organize an important Political Prisoner Program. Why was it so important for Neighbor Program to include this as one of its key organizing priorities? What kinds of support can communities offer to U.S. political prisoners?
Our Political Prisoner of War Program again was birthed after reading “Solitary” by Angola 3 Panther Albert Woodfox. As I read the book his words, his pain, his loneliness cut me deep and I realized how important it was for us to let those whose names we invoke or whose work we claim to be inspired by feel some type of support from us. We began writing letters, sending material needs, spreading awareness and offering any type of support these liberation veterans may need. Also part of our belief is that anything we say we believe in we should have a program to put that theory into practice. As an organization saying we are committed to abolition we must take an active role in fighting the carceral system. We do that in a variety of ways, including preventive measures, but we also must work to free those locked inside the belly of the beast. We know that People Power can liberate all those locked away in modern dungeons - history shows us this. We hope that more People in the community will join in our PPOW program to write letters of encouragement, to help provide these captured revolutionaries the basic things they need to survive the war inside. Also it is time for us to use our individual talents in a collective fashion for these veterans. If you are an artist, we need your art to spread awareness, we need those with legal expertise to help us work on cases, we need those who can fund these legal defenses; we need it ALL. The euro-kkkolonizer empire is at war with us and is utilizing their massive budgets to destroy our leaders and elders. We must collectively fight back to protect those who have put their lives on the line for our collective liberation.
It’s exciting to read about the Dr. Mutulu Shakur Health Clinic and the Assata Shakur Freedom Farm on your website. What significance do Mutulu Shakur and Assata Shakur have for your revolutionary work? How did they inspire the launching of these two programs?
Both the Dr. Mutulu Health Clinic and the Assata Shakur Freedom Farm are fully operational at the Shakur Center and it is so beautiful to see!
As I said early Assata’s “R/evolution is Love” is so profound to me. It completely changed the way I saw myself relating to the actual earth (“r/evolution means protecting the people. the plants. the animals. the air. the water. r/evolution means saving this planet.)” and so it only felt right to name our land after Assata. Assata stands as a guide for all of our work and a way for us to hold ourselves accountable for growth and to learn from the mistakes of our revolutionary ancestors.
Dr. Mutulu’s time at the Lincoln Detox Center serves as a demonstration for the world of what People Power can do and how our community can be healed from within. Our team was first trained by a Black acupuncturist and we have continued to study Dr. Mutulu, his ear-seeding methods and we provide that service to the community while our other practitioner partners provide a variety of other health and wellness services including pregnancy and postpartum support, chiropractic care, massage therapy and other holistic healing practices and methods.
You offer an extensive community learning program, one that recognizes how “the current education system is designed to aid in the empire's menticide of The People.” How does your vision for political education and community learning combat this menticide? What are some examples of recent programming that you’ve organized?
As any self-respecting Afrikan can see our People suffer from a form of stockholm syndrome. We have some of our People taking pride in being “amerikkkan” without fully understanding you cannot be proud of the empire responsible for your People’s genocide and still hold onto your own dignity and self-respect. We believe that a true education is the foundation for our struggle for liberation; this is rooted in historical analysis. Just look at Cuba, Ghana, Burkina Faso, the list goes on; in order for our People to become “political” they must learn that as Jamil al-Amin (H. Rap Brown) said “everything is political when you are Black.”
We have been running a bi-monthly series on some of the theorists who have shaped our politic including Malcolm X, Assata Shakur, Kwame Ture, an overview of the Shakur family, Tupac, as well as Dr. Mutulu for this month of June.
Our long term goal with community learning however is to open up Malcolm X Academy for Afrikan Education. A pre-k through 8th grade school that will serve to answer Malcolm’s 1964 call to open our own schools. Malcolm’s objectives through the OAAU where never able to be actualized due to his assassination but we look to carry on his ideology and vision for our children to have liberated learning spaces.
Neighbor Program is firmly rooted in Pan-Africanism. Why is this tradition so important to Black liberation struggles today?
Pan-Afrikanism stands on love for our People and Ujoma(unity). If our People are able to build love and unity amongst ourselves, we will witness our People to come together and fight a common enemy - the kkkaptialist-imperialist ruling class. Again, history tells us that Pan-Afrikanism is our only solution through the fact that the euro-kkkolonial empires have never wanted to see Pan-Afrikanism thrive. There have been targeted attacks on any Pan-Afrikanist from Garvey, to DuBois, Malcolm, RAM, the Panthers, RNA and so on. A unified and liberated Afrika would be the most powerful continent on the planet and would end western euro-kkkolonizer rule over the Global South. If we do not understand the historic significance of Afrika and the genocide of our People dating back to The Continent and see how our struggle against euro-kkkolonization is the longest genocide we will never fully understand what we are fighting for what liberation means. Until The Continent is free from kkkolonial rule, free from AFRICOM military bases, free from US-back sanctions, then no Afrikan, no matter where they live, will be free. Liberation isn’t about one individual, it is about every Afrikan having the right to be as free as we were born to be, not subjected to fascist kkkolonial powers. A united, unified and liberated Afrika will bring about freedom for every Afrikan regardless of where they choose to live, but we must have an independent homebase which is our motherland, The Continent.
How can BAR readers support your work?
For BAR readers who would like to support our work please consider becoming a patreon subscriber, make a monthly donation via paypal, or even donate via cashapp/venmo. We also need people to pull up to the Shakur Center and help build, we need People who want to write for the Neighbor Newspaper, People to join our PPOW program. If you are interested in joining or supporting our work but have questions you can always ask us at [email protected] too!
Jordan McGowan is Minister of Programs/Founder of Neighbor Program.
Roberto Sirvent is editor of the Black Agenda Report Book Forum.