Make it Plain is exploring Black Radicalism with Kehinde Andrews exploring a new letter each day. All of these are sourced from Back to Black: Retelling Black Radicalism for the 21st Century, proceeds of which go to the Harambee Organisation of Black Unity There are some limited suggested resources below but please send in suggestions for more, these are just a few to start with
‘The greatest weapon used against the Negro is disorganisation’ Marcus Garvey
When Kwame Ture (formerly Stokely Carmichael) visited Birmingham, UK in 1983 he had a simple message: ‘if you are not in an organisation you are against your people’. He was frustrated that people would go to hear him speak, complain about racism and perhaps turn up at a protest march but they were not so quick to commit to an organisation. This is a frustration that anyone involved in Black politics knows well. One of the pressures that being Black places on us is that we have to work twice as hard to survive, let alone thrive and there are only so many hours in the day. But the more people that get involved the more shared the work is. We are quick to remind those constantly in the struggle to take a break, but less inclined to step in and support.
Some of the most discouraging words you can hear when trying to organise is that ‘this has been done before’ so it obviously can’t work. There is no doubt that building organisations is one of the least successful aspects of movement history. But we learn from what has gone before, we are not hostage to it. This excuse for not getting involved is often twinned with a range of suggestions of what the organiser can do. Rather than make suggestions, put them into practice. There is no Black Messiah coming to save us, we will go as far as we are willing to go, as much as you are prepared to invest.
Any successful Black movement has been led from the grassroots, full of leaders who could carry the work forward. Ella Baker stressed the importance of a model of accountability and responsibility across organisations. We need organisations that live up to that spirit.
The simple truth is that without organisation, and strong organisations, there is no prospect of freedom. We can understand the nature of the system, be fully conscious of ourselves and outspoken. But without organisations that represent the masses, that bring together and mobilise our power we will never be free. We have made a lot of mistakes in the past in how we have built and run organisations so we need to learn from them. I could, and probably will, write a book on the challenges of starting the Harambee Organisation of Black Unity. We learn from the setbacks. Organisation building is the most important aspect of any political movement. We need to invest time, effort and money in ensuring that we get it right. So if you believe that the system is rotten and that we need change then join an organisation. If there isn’t an organisation you feel you can join, then start one. It is the only way to make revolution possible. Please make suggestions in the comments of organisations people can get involved in.
Amilcar Cabral Unity and Struggle
Amy Jacques Garvey Garvey and Garveyism
Barbara Ransby Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement
Bobby Seale Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party