Black Organizers Talk about Black Liberation in Atlanta
An important gathering of over 100 Black organizers and movement builders from various political tendencies and sections of the Black struggle convened in Ata., GA. October 13-15 for an initial strategy laboratory to explore five central ideas.
Those ideas included: 1) our peoples broad vision of what our vision for Black Liberation looks like; 2) our varying assessments of the dynamics driving the racist capitalism, imperialism, white supremacy, hetero-patriarchy roots of our oppression/exploitation and the many ways the ruling elite are maintaining power; 3) our mapping of the composition of the U.S. empire, Black and oppressed people, our Black groups’ battlefronts and Black working class lead organizations , coalitions in communities, allied organizations, etc. as well as what forces need to unite to win our vision of liberation & how these social forces are organized in U.S., our communities, organizations forces .We also assessed what are the forces fighting against our vision of liberation; 4) forecasts of near future scenarios that might play out and impact moving our liberation forward or backward, and 5) what ideas exist among us that will contribute to making our liberation strategy based on a collective vision, assessment, mapping and forecast.
All the participants acknowledged that this lab gathering of sharing, learning, and mapping did not represent everyone at this time and space. It was not a space to unite us into a single voice. It was a relatively small, but critically important learning/mapping process and gathering.
Several organizers asked …” What was the criteria for this initial invitation.” We were all reminded that this was an initial step in a process. Unfortunately, Black led social movement unions and other working class organizations (ILWA Local 10, ILA Local 1422, Union Black Caucuses, North Carolina Public Service Workers Union-UE Local 150. CBTU, workers organizations, Black Workers League, etc) were not invited.
The gathering opened with a concise review of the Black Radical Tradition and its many tendencies. All participants saw themselves grounded in this legacy. All agreed through our many small group lab that Black Liberation must struggle against white supremacy, hetero-patriarchy. In my political assessment, the question and actual central role of the Black working class in liberation was not a primary or even key in our smaller lab discussions or strategy labs. It was only raised by a few. In several lab exercises, younger Black males raised questions as to what and whether Hetero-Patriarchy was a main challenge to wining liberation. Several of them seemed to withdraw from this discussion.
Participants took great interest in an enlightening case study of Portuguese African colony of Guinea Bissau’s liberation struggle for power against Imperialism. This presentation and discussion drew out the dynamics/assessments of class, the women’s question, urban vs. rural, agricultural and exploited resources, and the five ethnic groups, allies and the need for revolutionary organization and training revolutionary cadre. The role of culture as a revolutionary tool in developing “ one revolutionary people” to bring the 5 ethnic groups together , new alternative institutions, “new socialist citizens.” Lessons shared in the need to train up leadership capacity, people’s skills to govern themselves in building a new alternative socialist society. Many younger organizers in some lag groups acknowledged the need for more study of these struggles and others for liberation. In my view, the main mission of this gathering was to begin studying and learning about the need for more strategic thinking methodology in our work. How do we develop a liberating power with a vision and move to strategy?
Participants shared and learned in small diverse groups of 8-10 (all genders, ages, experiences, types of organizations, etc) and often joined in organic larger groups to share, learn and synthesize. At times, there were significant differences about capitalism as a path or road to liberation for our people. Some saw Black capitalism as part or legacy of our Radical Tradition with a central role to play in Black Liberation. The concept of cooperatives was also discussed.
In another entire assembly “SPECTRUM” exercise, everyone participated in was one of identifying with political trends and whether or not capitalism was part of the solution or root of all our problems. My assessment was that 20-30 saw some “saving grace in capitalism” (These represented aspirants beyond the working class). Another identified maybe 1/3 as Marxists and revolutionary socialists, 20 % as socialists (include democratic socialists), and the remainder progressives and democrats.
Another revealing point shared by a significant number of participants in small and larger groups was that their employer non-profit did not share their political beliefs. Most were not members of political organizations or cadre organizations. Significant numbers of organizations were not building independent, self-sustaining, working class membership based and lead organizations in workplace, neighborhoods. Advocacy/Policy/etc. Quite a number were interested in more political education, strategic thinking method training, and political study-training-action groups.
What was most valuable about this gathering?
1) The intergenerational fellowship, sharing, learning and engagement of various activists with their breath of experiences.
2) From 1960s-70s ….approx. 8-10 activists/organizers …., 1980’s…..10-12 folks, 1990s…….. 10-14, 2000’s about 40 activists, 2010… 30-35 folks,….recent few years…. 15 activists
3) All were thoroughly engaged and shared a rich and valuable insights and factual data in the collaborative visioning, assessment, mapping, forecasting and strategic thinking dynamic process.
4) Learning more about challenging and sometimes different understandings of what may be needed for liberation, ideas on tactics, “State” repression, use of technology, people to people organization at the base in work places, strategic role of land/political power zones, dual power, vs. mobilization to actions/events, political language vs. mass popular people language, understanding composition and class character of neighborhoods and communities.
5) On the final day leading into the strategy question, we had plenty of space for principled and rigorous debate based on our own personal/organizational practice and organizational work and lessons learned. These lessons were shared in small groups each contributing narratives to a larger assembly story about our peoples road to liberation.
6) All the participants contributed by either phone banking at a IBEW Local 306 union hall for an upcoming local Ata. City Council Election or walking, canvassing and working along grassroots community coalition leaders challenging gentrification in historical Black Turner Fields/College Park.
We closed out with proposed frame works for next steps……
1) Left Roots (a three year old multi-tendency organization with seasoned cadre) shared their plan for continued learning, study sessions, sharing experiences, and training more and stronger strategic thinkers with a focus on organizing and strategy process with their training model with new political friends, allies and contacts. Developing unity in action as well as the need to train people / cadre to lead in the present growing crisis with an analysis, strategy and implementation are initial key steps.
2) Black Workers for Justice and friends shared the Black Liberation Unity Committees to unite with other political battlefronts/organizations/fight back activists to form or have study-action group to contribute to the 3rd organic growing Draft of THE FREEDOM MANIFESTO and the Call for A National Black Assembly for Liberation. We also called for the coverers and its planning committee to share among all present the ideas, information, data, mapping etc. documentation gathered at this Liberation Lab for us to examine closer, learn from the rich ideas and build our organizing work more strategically. In addition , we requested that the conveners and its broader planning committee develop local and regional gatherings of organizations & Black battlefront groups with their resources so that we can continue our “Liberation Thinking Labs and Assembly Sessions”
3) The final highest recommendations was for the conveners/planning committee to provide local technical training in the Strategic Thinking Method training model we all used in the labs.
In summary, this entire 4 days of fellowshipping and Liberation Strategy Labs was a valuable exploration and critical examination of some of the Black activists and organizing forces on the ground engaged in the War On Black America, our mutually shared lessons from the various battlefronts and tremendous upcoming challenges of building the required “Unity of Thinking and Action” to rebuild a “Black Liberation Front and Movement”. Key questions we raised and engaged all of us ....” How do we move beyond winning policy reform campaigns and begin to build our vision beyond policy reforms towards building dual peoples power with liberated zones were we control the territory, land, resources , institutions of power? How do we alter the present power relationships bet the Black, and oppressed and the ruling elite? What are we forecasting about our enemies next steps to set up back and keep us from advancing as they take back reforms and use technology to further dis-empower us? What does real power look like and how do we win it?” As stated by the conveners, this was just an initial step in a protracted process towards liberation. We certainly must continue to develop a popular vision for our people and greater strategic thinking in our organizing work. We all must use every opportunity, especially the one initiated and presented in Atlanta, GA to advance our unity to overcome the present fragmentation and lack of a common strategic political and historic framework as we move forward with building a National Black Liberation Assembly in 2018.