Black Radical Congress charts course

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. – The Black Radical Congress (BRC) brought together 200 activists at Seton Hall University during the weekend of June 20-22 to discuss “War, Racism and Repression: Confronting the U.S. Empire.”

There was full agreement that the Bush administration has inflicted devastation on people of African descent at home and abroad.

In the opening plenary, Linda Burnham, executive director of the Women of Color Resource Center, said the energy of the world peace movement was a cause for optimism in these dangerous times. “There is a deep well of cynicism and skepticism in the Black communities and our challenge is to mobilize it and link it up with the worldwide peoples’ movements,” she said.

New York University history professor Robin D.G. Kelley called on the reparations movement to mobilize people around the needs of all oppressed people rather than just “getting paid.”

In a panel on peace in Africa and the Middle East, Abdul Lamin, a University of Pennsylvania professor, talked about the civil war in Liberia and how it spilled over into Sierra Leone. He said wars fought over control of resources have destabilized Africa, adding, “We must speak out against Black leaders who oppress their own people and use children as soldiers.”

Nunu Kadane talked about the problems of Eritrea and said African immigrants should connect with the Black liberation movement in the U.S. Several speakers said the land issue is central to all of Africa, and criticized World Bank and International Monetary Fund policies as harmful to African people.

Rania Masri spoke about the $75 billion U.S. war on Iraq that has increased oppression rather than bringing freedom.

Damu Smith of Black Voices For Peace invited the BRC to support the Great Black Peace March on Oct. 18 in Washington, D.C. “The U.S. Army is recruiting Blacks for its never-ending ‘war on terrorism’ and recruiting young Black minds,” said Smith.

Another panel discussed the situation facing Africans in Central and South America. Marino Cordova, an African Colombian, spoke about oil reserves and other resources in her region. After the community won title to the land through court action, attacks, including assassination of their leaders by right-wing militia groups, became an everyday occurrence. “I hid in the water, but most of my town was killed,” Cordova said.

Rev. Lucius Walker, a leader of Pastors for Peace, said that relations between Cuba and the U.S. are at an all time low, with the U.S. Interests Section openly financing an effort to overthrow the government. Walker asked BRC to support solidarity projects like Friendshipment and the Venceremos Brigade. “The Cuban people do not want to return to the days when resources were controlled by a white elite,” he said.

Panelists also heard from a representative from Venezuela who described the democratic advances made under Hugo Chavez.

The multifaceted conference discussed the victory won by the Charleston Five longshore workers, the struggles of Black workers at Verizon to win Martin Luther King Day as a holiday, and efforts to stop contracting-out by the postal service. Several speakers urged cutting the military budget to fund human needs.

Speaking about BRC’s “Education not incarceration” campaign, Ewuare Osayande drew applause when he said privatization of the public schools is the new segregation, while privatization of prisons represents the re-enslavement of Black people.

Poet Sonia Sanchez and actor Danny Glover challenged the BRC to mobilize people to change the system, register people to vote, and form partnerships with labor and the religious communities.

The author can be reached at phillyrose1@earthlink.net