Jackson Rising: People Power and the New Cooperative Movement

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By Lamont Lilly

Durham, NC

 

Once home to some of the most violent racists in the U.S., Jackson, Mississippi is now a key training ground for self-determination and organized “people power” throughout the U.S. South. From May 2 through May 4, 2014 activists, organizers and fellow revolutionaries from all over the world gathered at the Jackson Rising: New Economies Conference at Jackson State University. An estimated 500 people participated in some or all of the conference.

 

The primary objective of such an assembly was “to educate and mobilize the people of Jackson to meet the economic and sustainability needs of their community,” and to share with others how such strategies can help produce the radical change oppressed communities will need to survive within the current global capitalist crisis. The event was organized by the Jackson Rising Organizing Committee and was held at the Walter Payton Recreation and Wellness Center, where students and community members were welcomed alike. The spirit of resistance and self-reliance filled the air.

 

As an opening, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives provided a warm welcome and an insightful introduction to the local cooperative movement there in Jackson, Mississippi, outlining how their efforts have been a form of resistance and an assistance in providing the people’s needs. The Southern Grassroots Economies Project (SGEP) offered an intense overview on why the cooperative movement has begun to blossom and take form throughout the Southern Black Belt, highlighting how public policy can actually support and finance such grassroots efforts. Regional activists and organizers learned firsthand how the SGEP has been working diligently since 2011 to “build a Southern economy rooted in self-reliance, solidarity, community ownership and meeting human needs rather than maximizing profit.”

 

Black Workers for Justice and a host of union activists expressed the importance that strategies for worker’s rights coincide with burgeoning worker-owned cooperatives, and how in hindsight, such forces actually strengthen one another.

The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation sponsored a community workshop presenting four case studies inspired by Argentina’s cooperative movement. Omar Sierra, deputy consul general of Venezuela in Boston highlighted the redesigning of communal territories in Venezuela through participatory planning. Manuel Matos, representative of the Afro-Descendant Community Council of La Toma [Colombia], shared how Afro-Colombians are building ties for land autonomy and participatory governance. Mazibuko Jara, of Amanda! Magazine and Alternative Information Center introduced conference participants to how the cooperative movement is resisting the rise of neocolonialism in South Africa.

 

Black Arts Movement poet and pioneer, Askia Toure was in attendance, along with representatives from Black Left Unity Network. The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement was also there, accompanied by world renowned Hip Hop emcee, Brother Ali. Guest speaker and long-time union organizer, Saladin Muhammad outlined how Black workers in the U.S. South are extremely underpaid, unprotected, and how their rights are completely ignored in a region that claims the “right to work” without union representation.

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A call for independent institutions

 

The main political orientation of this conference was that the working class should no longer depend on capitalism to provide for our basic needs. How can we, if it’s failing us from every angle? Speakers and cultural artists emphasized that freedom fighters have to assist the people in building institutions of liberation, and implementing practical strategies that promote autonomy from the capitalist system. Building cooperatives was stressed as an alternative to corporate grocery chains to supply oppressed communities with fresh fruits and vegetables. Educational cooperatives were presented as a working model to educate our children in a manner that enriches both them and society.

 

Organizers stressed that the task at hand now is working to construct economic and social networks that serve the oppressed rather than cater to the elite. The question is how do the people begin to provide themselves with adequate healthcare? How do low-income and marginalized communities create sustainable employment with living wages for themselves? How do underserved communities become their own solution to dilapidated housing, food deserts and waste management? How can communities affected by the school-to-prison pipeline combat such practices through participatory planning and self-reliance? How do communities protect themselves from police departments that terrorize rather than “protect and serve?” Fact is, the capitalist system and its various layers of control and exploitation will not stop until we make it stop! While issuing demands and raising voices is necessary, the harsh reality is the needs of the people have continued to be ignored.

 

Low-income oppressed communities need more than free newspapers, pamphlets and open access to political forums. In order to truly empower those who are marginalized, freedom fighters must be engaged in the work of providing basic survival needs including food, clothing, shelter and community safety. True, mass marches and political protests are very much so needed, but it will take another kind of mobilization to toil the soil and feed hungry children. It will take more than film screenings to help provide employment for those who have been incarcerated. Such developments require the collective application of practical skills, knowledge and community-based planning. Capitalism couldn’t care less about the needs of the oppressed. Hard work, creativity and revolutionary ingenuity can help lay groundwork for oppressed communities to begin meeting their own needs – creating their own modes of child care and transportation, manufacturing and apparel.

 

Within the capitalist structure, self-reliance among marginalized communities is a critical form of resistance. Limiting the power and impact capitalism and its corporatocracy possesses over our everyday lives is one of the first steps to building a “People’s Power” Movement. These points were recurring themes amongst organizers throughout the conference.       

 

The weekend session concluded with a rousing tribute to revolutionary and former mayor of Jackson, the late Chokwe Lumumba, as his son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba chanted: “Free the Land! Free the land! Free the land by any means necessary!” The spirit and legacy of former Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, who won the mayoral campaign promoting cooperatives as part of building people’s assemblies, resonated throughout the entire conference. What the Jackson Rising: New Economies Conference informed and reminded the movement is that oppressed communities must liberate themselves. #JacksonRising was a reminder that most underserved communities already possess the skills, labor and resources needed to improve their quality of life, and that we as revolutionaries must not only believe that; we must also lead the charge.     

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Lamont Lilly is a contributing editor with the Triangle Free Press, Human Rights Delegate with Witness for Peace and organizer with Workers World Party. He was delegate at the “Jackson Rising: New Economies Conference.” Follow him on Twitter @LamontLilly.

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Hiding the Pain: The Emotional Repression of Men

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Men aren’t supposed to cry. Men aren’t supposed to hug. Men aren’t supposed to say how we truly feel. Men aren’t supposed to be afraid. Men aren’t supposed to be wrong. I could keep going on with the long list of things men aren’t supposed to do, as I’ve had “man-laws” drilled into my head for decades. The worst law I learned in the school of manhood, is the one saying that men aren’t supposed to feel.

As men we are taught that any emotions other than anger or lust are signs of weakness. Weakness is like kryptonite to patriarchal masculinity, so no man ever wants to show any indication of it. Whenever our emotions do come up, we do our best to hide them. We front, so we won’t be exposed and have our manhood challenged.

I often hear the conversation about how emotionally insecure women are. I find this surprising because I believe that men are more or just as emotionally insecure as women. My logic behind this statement is quite simple. The patriarchal definition of masculinity in this society does not allow men to express our emotions. Emotions such as fear, pain, and sadness are swept under the rug. They’re not to be seen by society, because a man’s (defined by patriarchal masculinity) greatest fear is to be perceived as weak or soft.

The emotional crippling of men is destructive to the mental and physical health of men and society in general. All men feel, because we are humans. Feelings of empathy, fear, anxiety, patience, love, and compassion are not just specific emotions that women express. The human spirit contains a wide variety of emotions. Patriarchal masculinity attempts to suppress these emotions, which in turn creates broken men. Men who cannot express the fullness of their emotions are broken.

One of the biggest coping mechanisms of this emotional repression is foolish pride. Foolish pride enables us to shield ourselves from personal insecurities, rather than dealing with them. Basically it is a process of deflection. When we are afraid, we deflect. When we are hurt, we deflect. When are unsure, we deflect. Any emotion or action that goes against the “guy code” gets deflected.

This front is something men do conscious and subconsciously. The conditioning of patriarchy is so deeply rooted that the emotional repression of men has become normalized. As long as men continue to use the front, we will never be able to heal from the wounds of this emotional paralysis. We can’t heal if we don’t feel. Men have to feel and own our pain. As a community we must create spaces where men can feel comfortable expressing their emotions without being shamed. We cannot build a powerful movement towards self-determination with broken men. Masculinity must be redefined in a way that uplifts our humanity, the humanity in men, women, and other genders. It’s time to stop fronting and start healing. Stay Woke.

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What is Prehistory?

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This summer I will be traveling to the beautiful island of St. Croix. I can’t wait to relax by the beach, soak in the atmosphere, and ease my spirit. I believe it is essential to get away and to get away often. But before I travel somewhere I think it is important to know the history of the land. This afternoon I started doing my basic research on the history of the island, and what I encountered in my search would send my Spidey sense into overdrive. 

I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase, “Wikipedia is not a credible source,” and this is true. However it’s a useful tool when you want to get very basic info on a subject. When I scrolled down to the history section on the page for St. Croix, the first sentence made my stomach turn. It reads, “The island was inhabited by various indigenous groups during prehistory.”

Two thoughts came immediately into my mind after reading that statement. The first, “That’s such a dehumanizing statement.” The second, “What is prehistory?” Judging from how history is told in my country tis of thee, I concluded the definition of prehistory in this sentence quite rapidly.

Some will define prehistory as the time that existed prior to recorded history and writing systems. Personally I find the term quite subjective. In the case of the sentence mentioned earlier, prehistory meant that nothing existed prior to European contact. Every child in the U.S. has encountered that kind of prehistory when we were taught that Columbus discovered this landmass in 1492. If you ponder on this concept for a quick second you can really see how dehumanizing this definition of prehistory is.

White supremacy lives on the principle that anything other than the wealthy white male equals “less than.” In the eyes of white supremacy history does not begin until it shows up on the scene. The omission of the indigenous history is not some haphazard mistake or coincidental chance. It is a calculated act by the powers that be that shouldn’t be overlooked. 

The most important piece of the colonization process is for the oppressor to disconnect the oppressed from their history. It’s hard to convince someone that they’re nothing when they have a thorough and true understanding of their history. However, if you take away or reduce that history, it’s quite easy to colonize the mind of that individual.

It is essential that oppressed people of the world continue to speak truth to our histories. We have to tell our stories. We can’t allow white supremacy to define our existence on this Earth. Whenever we allow our oppressor to define us, the oppressor will always define us to its own benefit and not ours.  We have to define ourselves for ourselves. If we don’t, then we will be enslaved to someone else’s definition. I will not allow my ancestors or anyone else’s to be defined by prehistory. As far as I’m concerned there is no such as prehistory. History has no beginning or end, as none of us know when time began or when it will end. Stay Woke.

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Steady Frontin: Woman Shaming & the Self-Esteem of the Black male

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Hoe, thot, slut, etc., if you take stroll down any form of social media these days you will see those words jumping out from every corner. It’s quite amazing and scary just how normalized the dehumanization of women has become in today’s society. Though all genders and races engage in this sick game of woman shaming, I find brothers are often at the forefront of this sick renaissance. The question is why are we so invested in the shaming our sisters? And what insecurities are we Black men trying to shield ourselves from?

Before the awakening of my consciousness I existed in a state perpetual ignorance when it came to woman shaming. Daily without any effort or contemplation I would define several sisters as “hoes” or “sluts”. In conversations among others brothers, hoe was an acceptable term for any sister as long as she wasn’t a loved one or a girlfriend. We never felt the need to justify this labeling, and rarely if ever did we question it. Even when we did think we had some justification for calling a woman a hoe, it was always a hypocritical proclamation as we were probably more sexually promiscuous than the sister we were degrading.

Post my awakening; I’ve really tried gain understanding of our quick disposition to engage in this form of degradation. Once I got past the basic influences of popular culture, I began to see just how much self-esteem was connected to our engagement in this damaging shaming of humanity. People respond to low self-esteem in several different ways, but one of the classic reactions to low self-esteem is by making someone else feel lower in order to make yourself feel higher.

Growing up in Black in Amerikkka does a number on your self-esteem. For five hundred years, Amerikkka has told and shown Black people that we are “less than” in their eyes. After a while, we started believing it. Every thing that we have to be proud of, Amerikkka has tried to take. Our beautiful history, language, traditions, and overall culture were stolen by those who birthed the monsters that exist today.

In response to this great wounding of our souls, many Black people, particularly us Black men build a false sense of pride. Many of us think money, materials, and fear will foster us love and respect but it doesn’t. We often front to hide the hurt that we feel as Black men. We don’t express it because this patriarchal society tell us that it is weak and soft for men to feel anything other than anger and lust.

I believe that our attachment to woman shaming is a part of our front. I think we believe that if we can deflect our attention away from our own insecurities, maybe then we won’t have to deal with them. So we wound others, so we don’t have to heal ourselves.

We have to start building our pride on things that uplift each other and not degrade one another. This is why I believe it is so important for children of the Diaspora to learn their history. We also have to begin distance ourselves from patriarchal masculinity. We must redefine masculinity in a way that encourages Black men to feel.

If we are ever going to grow and heal as a people, we have to be prepared to deal with our wounds. Five hundred years of continual oppression is a lot to heal from, but we must do it in order to dismantle white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. We cannot build a movement towards self-determination with broken people, and we can’t heal if we don’t deal. Stay Woke.

 

 

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Twitter Activists: Hate to love and love to hate

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Twitter activists, neverlutionaries, keyboard activists, armchair revolutionaries, thumb activists, and the list the goes on. I’ve heard of all these names and have been called many of them myself. It almost seems trendy these days to diss activists and individuals speaking from a socially conscious perspective. Attacking the socially conscious isn’t a new practice though. People who speak from unpopular perspectives have been resisted since the beginning of time. Think about how crazy the individuals who proposed that world is round sounded to those who were convinced that it was flat.

Social media has given people the opportunity to share their opinions and offer oppositional worldviews. It also has given the sedated vanguards a greater opportunity to object those who resist the status quo. These vanguards are the ones quick to make statements such as “Twitter activists (insert insult).” These insults usually revolve around an assumption that people speaking out on social media are not involved in the community, which may or may not be the case.

A disturbing reoccurring theme that I’ve observed is that some people think they know a person just because they interact with them on social media. Social media does give us the opportunity to find out some things about a person. But we only see what that person allows us to see. I compare it to being able to see in the window of someone’s house. Now you might observe a lot in the one room you’re able peer into, however you have no idea what’s going on in the rest of the house.

Regardless of what a person does in their life outside of Twitter and other social media, we shouldn’t discredit the power of social media activism. Imagine how many stories wouldn’t have got attention if it had not been for those “Twitter Activists” tweeting and demanding attention. Names like Renisha McBride, Jordan Davis, and Kendrick Johnson might have never got the necessary attention they did if it was not for social media. People have been awakened via social media about issues such as mass incarceration, street harassment, police brutality, etc. Personally I’m not sure I would have learned about or even acknowledged structural sexism if it had not been for social media, specifically Twitter. Social media has even helped spark revolution in countries around the world, hence why some governments seek to repress it.

I live by the philosophy that you have to meet the people where they’re at. Back in the day the people where in the streets, so that’s where speakers and activists met them. From the corner of 135th and Lenox Ave in Harlem and other street corners, powerful leaders like Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X spoke directly to the people from stepstools and soapboxes. In today’s time people are on social media, so we’ve traded in our soapboxes for keyboards. Twenty-four hours a day three hundred sixty-five days a year, people are on social media interacting with another. You would be foolish to ignore how powerful of a tool social media is.

Any true activist knows that you have to use all resources available to you. Social media is a powerful resource. This is not to say that one should only be active on social media. True activists incorporate their activism in everything they do. For us it is a lifestyle, not a trend. Some people will make statements like “It’s just Twitter,” and it might just be if that’s all you want to use it for. However for those who understand its organizing potential, it is much more. As we continue to build this movement towards self-determination against white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, we must utilize this resource. The revolution will not be tweeted, but tweets will absolutely help organize it. Stay woke.

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Who Is Telling Our Stories?

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Until the lion has his or her own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best part of the story.”

~ Chinua Achebe (Afrikan proverb)

 

Some would argue that Amerikkka’s greatest weapon is its military might. Amerikkka truly is a monster of imperialism, just like the parent nation that it split from. However I would have to say that its biggest weapon is the mainstream media.

Brother Malcolm X said, “The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” Controlling the mind is key when it comes to controlling any group of people. The mainstream media has the power to shape opinions, thoughts, and even the actions of all those who invest in its validity. With the great power of the media, one should question who is at the reigns of this power? What do they look like? What are their intentions? Who’s interests are they protecting? What secrets are they hiding? Why do certain stories get attention while others fall by the wayside?

I think when one finds the answers these questions; they won’t be surprised as to why the mainstream media is so twisted. White supremacist capitalist patriarchy thrives because each one of its weapons always plays to the agenda. That agenda is to keep the people divided, sedated, and mentally incarcerated. Everything about the mainstream media is calculated, hence why we have to be very protective and critical of those who are telling our stories.

I’ve been constantly frustrated with mainstream “Black” media outlets that are present these days. Often times they are reporting on Kim and Kanye, or where Beyoncé ate lunch yesterday. When they are not reporting on celebrity gossip, they spend the rest of their time mirroring what mainstream media puts out. We must be critical of these so-called Black media outlets, and who is really behind them. There are so many important stories going in our community and world that our people need to pay attention to. It is imperative that we have the right people telling our stories.

Our people need media that operates from a decolonized point of view. We need media that will push us to have the conversations that white supremacist capitalist patriarchy is not prepared to deal with. We hear about Kim and Kanye everyday, but we need to hear about mass incarceration, the school to prison pipeline, post-traumatic stress disorder associated with being Black in Amerikkka, police brutality, economics, revolution, etc. EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Revolutionizing media is essential to any movement for self-determination against the oppressor. Our powerful brother Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown) said, “Anything you don’t control can be used as a weapon against you.” We don’t control the mainstream media; Amerikkka does. We cannot accept or tolerate having the ones who hate us tell our very own stories. We need to be in control of our own stories, for it is a vital piece in being in control of our own destinies. Freedom is to be taken, not given. Stay Woke

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The Day Slavery Came, What Would You Do?

It’s April 27, 2024 and the majority neoconservative Congress and neoconservative President has just passed a piece legislation that will forever change the course of history.

In response to the rising rates of unemployment, poverty, homelessness, and crime, the United States government has decided to reinstate slavery. “These people were a drain on our economy by living off the government and our tax dollars. So if they don’t want to work, we are going to make them work,” says a senator out of West Virginia. “This is a necessary action in order to create a more perfect society,” states the president.

All citizens whose annual personal income is under $250K will now become property of the United States government. Only ones who are exception to this rule are members of the police and other law enforcement. The government will make the slaves available to be purchased for a one-time fee. Corporations and individuals will be able to purchase slaves. Slaves can also purchase their own freedom for price of $375,000.

Individuals listed for slavery must report their local government interment camp by May 15, 2024. Marked individuals will not be allowed to purchase airplane tickets, or any other form of transportation. There will be checkpoints at all of America’s borders. Those who fail who to report to the internment camp will be issued a warrant and will be strongly pursued by law enforcement individuals.

If you were one of those marked individuals, what would you do? At face value it seems your options are pretty limited. There is a high chance of you getting caught if you were to run. If you were to fight, there is a high chance of you being killed. And with complying, you are setting yourself up for a life of servitude.

If you were to run, would you be prepared to leave your friends and love ones behind? Where would you go, and how would you get there? How would you survive once you got to where you were going?

If you were to fight, what would that fight look like? Surely you would have to get with other people to fight with. How would you connect with those people? What would be the plan you all would come up with? Would you reach out to other countries? How would you build those ties? Would you be willing to kill when the police come to take you to slavery?

If you were to comply, what would your daily life look and feel like? How would you deal with the housing arrangement your owner called an “Employer” has set up for you? What would you do if another company or individual bought your loved one? How would you act to the ones who had authority over you? What would be your path to happiness?

I think this is an important scenario to discuss in this day and age. Of course this scenario is hypothetical and hyperbolic, however one can make a strong argument that slavery in some form continues today. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening everyday and the symptoms of systemic oppression rip apart the hearts of marginalized people every second. The existence of the prison-industrial complex, school to prison pipeline, police brutality, legalized stand your ground lynchings, patriarchal dehumanization, the ills of poverty, etc. make for a very strong argument that the society we exist in is not as “free” as we want to believe it is. Maybe many of us are taking comfort in the fact that the ones enacting it aren’t explicitly announcing this oppression.

So if the power structure decides to go back to explicit expressing that you’re aren’t free, what would you do? I believe this is a question that people should be able to answer for themselves. And whatever the answer may be, I believe that that the person should truly believe and support it. For who is to say that day will never come or isn’t here already? Stay woke.

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