“There shall be no solution to this race problem until you, yourselves, strike the blow for liberty”Marcus Garvey
The idea of Black people coming together to attack the racist foundation of society by creating and supporting our own institutions and organisations has gradually fallen out of favour. Many people are still keeping the fight alive doing invaluable work and no doubt the spirit of Black activism continues in the conversations and debates you can hear across the community.
However, the battles won fighting direct discrimination have meant that enough of us have been able to achieve in society that those who are “successful” are marked out as role models for those failures left behind. The state is certainly moving away from targeted funding, which is making it very difficult for some of the organisations involved in Black activism.
On top of this we are told that in this globalis=zed, postmodern world, group identity is a thing of the past and we are in the era of the individual. Organising around race is seen by some as out of touch and backwards. The more society has changed, however, the more it has stayed the same. In Britain Black children still get significantly less qualifications, the police continue to harass the community in the form of stop and search, the prisons are being filled with Black people, unemployment is at least 4 times as high for Black people than the average, even Black university graduates are less likely to find jobs, and perhaps most disturbing is the rising number and falling ages of murders in the community.
Across the Diaspora things are no better, in fact worse. Jamaica retains one of the highest proportions of national debt and one of the highest murder rates in the world, in America there will soon be 1,000,000 Black men in jail, poverty is endemic throughout South America, and on the continent of Africa we have not only poverty and the continuation of colonialism, where the resources are being stolen by the rest of the world; but also the AIDS crisis with over 22 million people living with the virus. As the euphoria ending apartheid South Africa has declined, what is left is a society where over half the population live below the poverty line and over 250,000 people have been murdered since achieving “freedom.” We continue to face problems created by a racial system of oppression.
To have any chance to overcome this we need to come together as Black people and create organisations that can improve the conditions we find ourselves in. We need to build on the Black activism which has gone before us and modify it for our present situation. We are facing global systems and problems, but we feel the effects firstly on the local level. There are a number of groups across the world who are doing outstanding work in Black communities, providing invaluable services and support. There is a need to strengthen these groups, extend the activities taking place and create new avenues of resistance. In order to do this locally we need to work to build the Organisation of Black Unity that can be a focal point for Black empowerment in the city of Birmingham.
Make It Plain
Make It Plain is the editorial wing of Harambee Organisation of Black Unity (HOBU or OBU). HOBU is an update of the Organisation of African American Unity (OAAU) founded by Malcolm X in 1964. The OAAU’s goal was to bring together all Black activists and organisations in the United States to coordinate and strategize the way forward for the community.
In founding the Organisation of Black Unity in the UK, with the first chapter in Birmingham we have brought the spirit and letter of the OAAU into the 21st Century. We aim to build a mass membership organisation to work with existing groups to support the activity in the Black community and to create new programmes where necessary.
The Harambee Organisation of Black Unity
We need to develop an umbrella organisation to deal with the issues facing the community, based around different departments (updating Malcolm X’s creation of the Organisation of African American Unity).
The organisation would be focused practically on issues facing the local community, but always tying these into national and global concerns. There could be any number of departments and the focus of each can be decided later but could include, for example: Education & Training, Health, Black Business Alliance (see below) Arts & Culture Fundraising & Events.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Many people are involved in these areas already and there are services that exist. The idea would be to draw on the resources and expertize already out there and support and extend it. So, for example, if we decided Saturday schools were a good way to tackle educational inequality then we would use the experience of those Saturday schools already running, provide them with resources and also create new Saturday school programmes.
Once the departments are formed they would have relative autonomy from each other, calling their own meetings and arranging events. We would need a number of people to head up the departments, who could be elected at larger organisational meetings. The leaders of the various departments could then form the basis of the Central Committee When people sign up to be involved in the organisation they would pick a department or departments that they wanted to be a part of. This way we get people who are interested and with expertize doing what they know and are passionate about. People could be involved in as many different departments as they wish but would be expected to contribute fully to the activities within them.