African American history event recalls even King had doubts at times

NEW HAVEN, CONN. – “Struggle, it never stops. It moves on. We make progress but we have to keep on fighting,” declared Jarvis Tyner, chair of the New York Communist Party, to a standing ovation in the packed auditorium at Troup School during the 42nd Annual People’s World African American History Month Celebration.

Emphasizing the necessity for all-out unity to make sure Donald Trump does not become president, Tyner’s impassioned remarks placed the 2016 elections in the context of the ongoing African American freedom struggle from slavery to Reconstruction, to the Civil Rights movement and the election of President Barack Obama.

Recalling how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began to doubt himself after his house was bombed during the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott in 1955, Tyner said that it was the people that inspired Dr. King to keep fighting. He concluded, “Leaders are wonderful but it’s really the people that are the greatest leaders we have. The people will lead the way.”

The multi-racial audience, including many young people, union members and elected officials, enthusiastically welcomed Tyner, who was a candidate for vice president on the Communist Party USA ticket in 1972 and 1976.

During the weekend Tyner spoke at five venues in New Haven and Hartford. All were themed  around the 65th anniversary of the presentation of the “We Charge Genocide” petition to the United Nations in 1951 by William L. Patterson and Paul Robeson.  The petition, which details lynchings, racist terror and crimes against African Americans, is being re-issued this year by International Publishers with an introduction by Jarvis Tyner.

Addressing the still pervasive structural racism in this country, Tyner singled out the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, saying, “They can kill you with a gun and they can kill you with chemicals.” He said the crisis goes beyond Flint and that “90 percent of coal refineries are near Black and Latino neighborhoods.”

Pointing out that Republican presidential candidates deny climate change because of their ties to the fossil fuel industry, Tyner emphasized, “If the voters are inspired and mobilized, the right-wing extremists can’t win!”

During the Hartford event, held at the King-Davis Labor Center, Tyner passed around a photograph too painful to view. It was a picture of a child chain gang in the South following the violent overthrow of Reconstruction. He quoted W.E.B. Du Bois: “The slave went free, stood a brief moment in the sun, then moved back again towards slavery.”

The New Haven event included African drumming led by Brian Jarawa Gray and a welcome from the Troup School principal.  Some members of the school choir led the audience in “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Alfred Marder, president of the Amistad Committee, spoke of the acquittal of the Amistad captives by the Supreme Court 175 years ago. He concluded, “Black lives matter in 1839 and black lives matter now!”

The winners of the People’s World African American History Month High School Arts and Writing Competition read their poems and displayed their artwork centered around the question, “What Lessons from the Reconstruction Era for 2016?”

Ice the Beef Youth put on a multi-genre performance culminating in the chant, “We Gotta Stop the Violence with Peace!”

The events gave voice to the outrage at institutionalized racism, and offered hope and inspiration.  “We’ve got to win this one and hand our children a beautiful future,” concluded Tyner.

Photo: Video snapshot


CONTRIBUTOR

Joelle Fishman
Joelle Fishman

Joelle Fishman chairs the Connecticut Communist Party USA. She is a Commissioner on the City of New Haven Peace Commission, serves on the executive board of the Alliance of Retired Americans in Connecticut and is an active member of many economic rights and social justice organizations. As chair of the CPUSA Political Action Commission, she has played an active role in the broad labor and people's alliance and continues to mobilize for health care, worker rights and peace.    

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