A Day of Reparations Stops in Portland
On November 13th, Portland, Oregon was visited by representatives from the Uhuru Movement including: the African People’s Socialist Party, APSP, the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, USM, and the African People’s Solidarity Committee, APSC.
(Uhuru, the Swahili word for “freedom” became the slogan of the Uhuru Movement inspired by the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya between 1952 and 1964.)
Portland was the eighth of eleven cities on the Days of Reparations to African People Tour. The tour began in St. Louis, MO then travelled to Huntsville, AL, Gainesville, FL, Philadelphia, PA, Asheville, NC, New York, NY, Boston, MA, notably Perth, Australia, and ended in Seattle, WA on the 14th of November.
Portland’s visit was hosted at openHaus on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. This stop of the Days of Reparations Tour began with MC Dakota Russell, a member USM, and the Outreach Coordinator of the Days of Reparations in Portland, discussing the Uhuru Solidarity Movement’s purpose, and the events scheduled for the evening.
They advised that bags were checked and wanded because of the history of governmental disruption of black liberation movements and events.
Russell introduced and honored the founder, and leader of the Uhuru Movement as well as the African People’s Socialist Party, Chairman Omali Yeshitela. Introduced next was the Chairwoman of the African People’s Solidarity Committee, Penny Hess- addressed as being the “first white person to take up the call from the party to build white solidarity with black power over 42 years ago”. Also introduced for the evening was Jesse Nevel, the National Chair of the Uhuru Solidarity movement, who made waves running for mayor of St. Petersburg Florida on the platform of “unity through reparations” alongside Akilé Cainion, who is the current council-person for district 6 in St. Petersburg, Florida and was not present.
The night’s goal was to raise money for Black Power Blueprint, which is coordinated by Ona Zene Yeshitela. The Black Power Blueprint is “Black-led self-determination project in St. Louis, MO organized by BlackStar Industries and the African People’s Education and Defense Fund”. There are currently two similar spaces formed by Black Star Industries. One in Oakland, CA and another in St. Petersburg, FL. There are developments currently in Philadelphia, PA, and Huntsville, AL. Funded largely by reparation payments by members of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, BlackStar Industries’ project in St. Louis has been able to complete one and a half of three specific phases.
The first goal, which was to finance and create a three-story African people’s community center in the Uhuru House at 4101 West Florissant Avenue in St. Louis MI, including an event space, rental hall and economic development hub has been achieved. The amount needed for the repairs and installation of this hall was $50,000 and was exceeded with more that 800 contributors donating a total of $500,836. The contributions provided the necessary funds to add the beautiful Akwaaba banquet hall to the Uhuru building, as well as create the upstairs offices to house the African People’s Education and Defense Fund, BlackStar Industries, and the International People’s African Socialist Party. The funds also made it possible for the organization to demolish two condondemed building across the street from the Uhuru House.
The demolition of these buildings is part of the second phase of making way for the sprawling One Africa! One Nation! Marketplace, a live stage for outdoor events and a community garden.
The third phase of the development project in St. Louis is to build the Uhuru Jiko Community Commercial Kitchen on Goodfellow Blvd, which includes a bakery and café, and the training center for the African Independence Workforce Program. A main goal of the African Independence Workforce program is to create opportunities, provide life guidance and job training for recently incarcerated African people.
BlackStar Industries and the St. Louis based unit- Black Power Blueprint calls on white people to provide the material funds they need to create these community led development projects through reparations. They reach white communities through the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, and organization founded by the APSP to begin reparation payments from the white community, rather than the corporations and governments whose values are too bonded by their histories linked to the oppression of colonized peoples to do the work.
According to Thomas Craemer, a University of Connecticut researcher, African Americans are owed between 5.9 trillion and 14.2 trillion by the United States Government for the hours worked by slaves between the founding of the United States, and the abolishment of slavery. It is important to note that this does not begin to cover the cost of labor, resources, and culture that was stolen from Africa and African people.
Chairman Omali Yeshitela was the 3rd and then again the second to last to speak on the 13th. He spoke with passion about the creation of an alternative sense of self worth for non-white people. One, he believes functions only by disengaging from the United States government. This sense of self worth is unity against domestic colonialism.
In his speech, The Chairman emphasised that “What we are dealing with is a social system itself”, and that any social system built on a platform of slavery and colonialism will reflect the values created by slavery and colonialism. The African Socialist Party, emphasizes in the about section on their website that, “leading the struggle to end the system of domestic colonialism and smash the U.S. capitalist-colonialist state is the immediate task of the African People’s Socialist Party-USA and the African working class in the U.S.” This sentiment was echoed clearly in Chairman Omali Yeshitela’s time depiction of the party.
In his speech, The Chairman emphasized that “What we are dealing with is a social system itself”, and that any social system built on a platform of slavery and colonialism, will reflect the values created by slavery and colonialism.
He also took some time to acknowledge the international Uhuru party members and their struggles, including members in Sierra Leone.
Discussing the feats of community strengthening in St. Louis, MO, and the work of Ona Zene Yeshitela, the Chairman praised the fact that half of the members of the party were women, and that it has been that way since the beginning.
Chairman Omali Yeshitela and the African People’s Socialist Party calls for African unity. In his speech Yeshitela spent some time denouncing a “false national consciousness” created by white colonialism. False national consciousness, in his mind, describes the loss of cultural identity through the structured method of the issuing of European names onto African regions and peoples. Yeshitela used various examples such as the Berlin Conference of 1884’s which “cut up” Africa, dividing “ownership” of African regions for a handful of the European colonial governments in attendance. Yeshiteli discussed the creation of the colonial names imposed onto African territories created by the Berlin Conference and the history surrounding the naming of the country of Nigeria. He stated that Nigeria, a name coined by Flora Shaw, the wife of Frederick Lugard, a colonial administrator and Governor of the Southern and Northern Nigeria Protectorates for Britain in the early 1900’s, meant in cruder terms, “Negro Area”. Nigeria is the location of the “Slave Coast” as it was known in the 1700’s, a heavily trafficked area by the Atlantic Slave Trade.
An animated Yeshitela, called on the audience to realize the divisions imposed by European Colonizers onto colonized peoples. Addressing the audience he stated;
“White people have a lot of damn work to do to rectify your relationship with the rest of the world” to emphasize the seriousness of his statement he added, “It’s about re-joining humanity.”
After expressing solidarity with the rage felt in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the United States after Mike Brown’s death on August 9th, 2014; Yeshitela called on the mainly white audience to try and understand the pain and devastations of police violence and targeting which burden communities of color, and the structural system at play. Asking for the audience to imagine the kind of anger that they might experience given the consistent, and historical brutality at the hands of police. To reiterate the history of domestic colonialism and institutional racist violence – which defines the resistance of the APSP, Yeshitela stated;
“The police are simply the arm of the state… the colonial state”
Chairman Omali Yeshitela also took some time to discuss his critiques of Black Lives Matter, and what followed the Ferguson uprising. He said this about the slogan;
“Black lives really don’t matter, and won’t matter until there is black power.”
Unlike the Black Lives Matter movement, the Chairman expressed that the APSP is working to be separate from the rule of United States Government:
“We are planning to govern ourselves […] we must capture the power”
PCC student, Maggie, said this after the event:
“It is an incredible honor to share space with Omali Yeshitela and learn from his wisdom and experience. Reparations, financially and otherwise, for African people and anyone subjected to colonial violence, should be a top priority for all white people. The Uhuru Solidarity Movement ensures responsible distribution of reparations with no white middle men.
The Uhuru Solidarity Movement hosts monthly webinars on Youtube, and the next one will be called: “Everything You Were Taught About Thanksgiving Is A Lie” which will be available to watch on November 20th at 4pm PT, at the Uhuru Solidarity channel on youtube.com
You can learn more about what white solidarity with black power means, discussions and understandings of what reparations look like, and how to become a member of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, on their website at uhurusolidarity.org. Learn more about the African People’s Socialist Party at their website at apspuhuru.org. Learn more about BlackStar Industries at blackstarindustries.org and also check out Burning Spear, the official media outlet of the African People’s Socialist Party at theburningspear.com