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The 50th Anniversary of Black Power: From Kwame Ture to Rosa Clemente, The Vote and an Appeal to the Green Party

Summary/Abstract:

  1. Black Power as most popularly expressed by Stokely Carmichael/Kwame Ture was/is anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, pan-Africanist, scientific socialist, internationalist and revolutionary.
  2. Voting was seen by this movement as one (not the only) method of organizing a mass movement and challenging (and demonstrating that challenge) the system and its claims that the vote is a mechanism of achieving/wielding power.
  3. Voting cannot bring about revolutionary change until put to use by a radically organized movement that is itself producing candidates and campaigns.

We’ve not learned or organized enough around what has long been said and known; the two-party political establishment cannot produce revolutionary change.  Preparing for what is next week’s June 16th 50th anniversary of Black Power (June 16th is also Tupac’s birthday) and listening to this week’s “appeal” to the Green Party by their 2008 vice-presidential nominee Rosa Clemente got me to hearing it yet again.  In the initial mix (below) are some of those comparative unlearned lessons laid out in both a 1966 speech on Black Power from then Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) and this past week’s speech from Rosa Clemente.

  • Black Power 50 / Green Party 2016 Mini-Mix (ft. Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael and Rosa Clemente)

 

Initially Ture is heard offering a kind of definition of Black Power, establishing some ideological goal posts – markers we are still fighting to define, not for the sake of historical argument but to help more properly situate this generation’s activists who continue to look to the past (at least symbolically) but who are too often encouraged away from the most wonderfully militant ideas or expressions of that time.

Clemente here represents the most appropriate contemporary expression of Black Power’s radical approach to the vote.  On the one hand she shows again why she is among today’s best spokespeople articulating a militant anti-capitalist, internationalist approach to political struggle.  On another, and in this particular electoral political moment, Clemente demonstrates the most appropriate interpretation of historical radicalism, of Black Power’s still-relevant position on voting – that we need a world majority led (so-called “people of color,” women and the poor) electoral party that is an extension of the broader but still unorganized revolutionary social movement.

That is why Clemente is correct, as was Margaret Kimberley recently, that those Whites who now want to support Bernie Sanders and the many more mostly Black and Brown poor who won’t be voting at all represent that disorganized movement who have no legitimate electoral outlet for their politics.  But both Kimberley and Clemente are also correct in their assessment of the still extant racial divides that weaken this potential.  This was the warning and the call offered in 1966 by Ture (Carmichael) which can be heard in the above time-collapsing mix and “exchange” between him and Clemente.  Ture called then for Whites to go to their own communities to build institutions that would challenge those currently in place that make voting little more than an exercise in the minor or simple adjustments of oppression (i keep thinking of something like an Apple OS update, this one being Colonialism: Gorilla).   Clemente reminds her audience that it is a fear of Blackness, a continued obeisance to White supremacy, a refusal or inability to make racial justice a centerpiece of their work that led many within the Green Party to turn in 2008 against her and Cynthia McKinney  – the first and only all women of color presidential ticket) and to today not seek her help or that of others in building the GP into a world majority party that can win.  And Clemente is right to link all of that to this failed moment, a moment when – if connected properly to the rising #BlackLivesMatter movement (or even the White Occupy effort) – the Green Party could be seeing its own emergence as a real political force.

At this point i am only interested (as it pertains to voting) in encouraging a radical break with the current two-party representatives of a ruling elite.  Whether it is within the Green Party (which i have mostly advocated based on its existing structure and non-corporate, progressive platform) or the Party for Socialism and Liberation (whose position as an avowed anti-capitalism party is appealing) or some revival of an independent Black political party (perhaps an expansion of Maryland’s Ujima Party) or a broader kind of “New Bangdung,” Non-Aligned, Third World/First Nations party, it matters little to me.  But if we are to continue to pay tribute to Black Power, to radical struggles of the past while facing worsening conditions today let it be on the terms of those genuinely radical politics: independent political parties, campaigns and movements themselves connected to revolutionary anti-imperial efforts elsewhere in the world.  Let that homage adopt/adapt those ideas to today.  When it comes to 2016 and the vote lets be about the business of building an electoral institution that can test the limits of what voting can actually mean for revolution.   Let that tribute be a break with politics (and parties) as usual.

  • An unedited copy of Rosa Clemente’s speech to the Green Party of New York (June 11, 2016)
  • Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) Speech on Black Power,  Berkley 1966
  • More from Ture on Black Power in this 1966 CBS special

1966 CBS NEWS SPECIAL REPORT: "BLACK POWER/WHITE BACKLASH"

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