WASHINGTON, DC, November 3, 2018 — It was a chilly autumn afternoon in Washington, DC as my mother Maggie Gouldin and I wandered to Malcom X Park for the Black Is Back Coalition’s annual march to the White House. As colorful fall leaves crunched beneath our shoes, I saw an African flag — the Red, Black and Green waving triumphantly in the distance and I knew we had found our destination. The chill in the air didn’t dampen the red hot revolutionary spirit of that crowd as they gathered to demand nothing less than the total liberation of Black people and all the colonized people of the world.
The next day would see the annual convention of the Black is Back Coalition.
In 2008, the Black Is Back Coalition had been founded by African People’s Socialist Party Chairman, Omali Yeshitela. That year, it staged the first protest against Barack Obama – a move that infuriated many Black activists at the time. In the early days following Obama’s election, hopes had been raised that electing a Black President would put an end to the war policies of the Bush regime. Instead, the impact on the U.S. peace movement was devastating.
Some corporate powers, offended by the expense, and the cost in American lives (but hardly a thought about Iraqi lives, or Palestinian lives, or Yemeni lives, or Syrian lives), had been quite happy with the anti-war movement, seeing it as the ticket to bringing the Democratic Party back into control of the White House and Congress. But with Obama and his neocon administration safely ensconced in the Oval Office, and doubling down on the same neocon foreign policy as Bush had pursued, the liberal establishment pulled the plug on the anti-war movement. The funding for bus rides to Washington disappeared. The once-liberal media now took up full-throated support for the Obama foreign policy.
One of the first to answer Yeshitela’s call for an alliance that would oppose U.S. Imperialism, no matter who was the face of it, was Glen Ford, co-editor of the respected Black Agenda Report, who stated:
“When we do these marches every year, we are demanding self-determination in all of its aspects. We spent our November afternoons for eight years, marching on the Obama White House. We were marching against white corporate power, because that power was the master of Obama. Obama was the Black Trojan Horse for the military invasion of Africa undertaken by the US since 2008 up to the present, so that now the continent is dotted with U.S. drone bases. But imperialism is in crisis. This 500-year reign of Europe ruling over the rest of the world is coming to an end. [cheers]
It got worse. When Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump in her bid for the White House, protestors once again filled the streets. But the script had changed. Trump was “threatening” a détente with Russia. The same forces which had backed the anti-war movement now enlisted their liberal minions in the Holy Crusade against Trump. They fomented a McCarthyite hysteria against Russia, and the former anti-war movement became the foot-soldiers against any forces who questioned the neocon agenda.
They effectively became a pro-war movement. The Black Is Back coalition stepped in to fill that vacuum.
There are now stirrings of a new anti-war movement. Over the course of three weeks, D.C. had a series of radical anti-war actions; the Women’s March for Peace led by Gold Star mother and anti-war activist, Cindy Sheehan, Black is Back, and a Veterans Anti-War March. The new anti-war movement, whose predecessors had been, frankly, a wing of the Democratic Party, is now finding itself an independent movement.
Thus is it was of great significance that at the Black is Back march on Saturday, November 3, and the annual convention of the Black is Back Coalition the next day, we saw the beginning of a Black/Green alliance that has the potential to take the emerging anti-war movement into independent politics. In addition to Ford, several prominent Green Party leaders participated in a panel discussion. The panel included Ajamu Baraka, leader of the Black Alliance for Peace and 2016 Green Party Vice Presidential candidate, and respected journalist Margaret Kimberly. Long time Green activists, Kevin Zeese and Dr. Margaret Flowers, who were instrumental in the creation of the Green Shadow Cabinet, also attended the gathering.
As Baraka told the gathering:
“This is a historic gathering — a culmination of years of revolutionary struggle. So we should be proud of where we are today. At this critical moment of history, we are choosing a revolutionary path forward. War is being waged against our people, and against the working classes and against the oppressed on a global scale. We understand that we are at war, and yet we are committed to the notion of peace. But what we are saying is that there can be no peace without justice.
“Our view is unlike Obama’s and Bush’s, and their take on ‘human rights,’ which is pro-Imperialist and liberal. We say that human rights emanate from the people. They come out of the people’s struggle. So we must secure them for ourselves from social struggle, just as we create ourselves in that struggle. We are the ones who have to define the range of human rights, because you cannot realize human rights within the context of the existing system. The only way we can recognize the full spectrum of human rights is through revolutionary transformation.”
Margaret Kimberley, a regular columnist for Black Agenda Report, added:
“It’s no accident that we meet here in D.C. right before Election Day — ‘the biggest election, the most important.’ Well, I’ll be glad when it’s over. The ACLU puts out full page ads that say ‘just vote and we’ll have a better criminal justice system!’ They don’t mention that there are hardly any candidates talking about the criminal justice system. Trump is the one who sets the agenda. Whatever his many intellectual shortcomings are, you have to give him this — he knows his people. He knows how to push their buttons, he knows how to get them out.”
Omali Yeshitela outlined the challenges for today:
“We had a revolutionary movement in this country [in the 1960’s] and it was part of a revolutionary movement that oppressed people around the world were engaged in, because everybody was tired of living under the boot of white power! Everybody was determined that we would take control of the future for our children! Revolution was in the air! And then you had American and other Imperialist powers attack that revolutionary project. They dropped drugs into our communities … as part of a strategy to make sure we would never be able to fight back again. They gave us the Democratic Party as a solution, but THE Democratic Party is not a revolutionary political party and it never has been! Barack Hussein Obama has been one of the biggest traitors to have ever drawn breath!
“Today we all come from different politics and different organizations. This coalition has done a remarkable thing. It is rooted in unity around the principle of self-determination, and opposed to Imperialism. We are trying to bring science, analysis and coherence back to our struggle. We are giving the question of self-determination a face. We are doing 10-state tour to create a national political agenda for self-determination.
“We are here to tell you that Black is Back!”
— Rose Roby
Co-Chair, Pinellas County Green Party