The following report from the Oakland Freedom Summer Project was written by Uhuru Solidarity Movement National Membership Chair, Harris Daniels, who traveled from Philadelphia to participate in the OFSP.
I have the fortunate honor of reporting back to all Uhuru Solidarity Movement (USM) members, sustainers, supporters and blog readers about the incredible 2012 Uhuru Movement Oakland Freedom Summer Project.
The Oakland Freedom Summer Project (OFSP), like last year’s Summer Project in St. Petersburg, FL, has been rigorous and amazing! The schedule, designed to teach discipline, organization and collectivity, begins every morning at 6am with group exercise. All participants enjoy three delicious, healthy meals a day cooked by professional chef and Uhuru Foods volunteer John Janosko, who is using many ingredients from the already blossoming vegetable garden in the backyard of the Uhuru House.
The work in the garden has been intense but productive. Led by African People’s Socialist Party Secretary-General and OFSP leader Gaida Kambon, everyone took on a different task in the garden, from planting cherry tomatoes and eggplants, to clearing weeds from the paths to trimming aromatic rosemary and lavender bushes. The food harvested from the Summer Project work has already fed many hungry members of the Uhuru Movement, and the continued work on the garden will yield even more nutritious meals throughout the year.
USM member Pete Yaroschuk, under the leadership of the Party, organized the Uhuru House renovations projects that are currently underway, recruiting African, Mexican and North American painters, contractors, electricians, plumbers and other skilled people into active material solidarity with the project. The renovations work on the historic Uhuru House has been right on schedule, and Yaroschuk has secured donations of rental construction equipment, power tools, paint and other materials through a rigorous donations campaign.
Volunteers have been participating in the work daily, cleaning the front of the Uhuru House, bringing down the murals of African martyrs and heroes including Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah, Malcolm X, Huey P. Newton and Chairman Omali Yeshitela. A skilled African artist will be repainting these murals.
The exterior of the Uhuru House is getting a thorough cleaning and will soon be painted by volunteer painters from a local union organized by Carlos Sturla. Sturla has become an enthusiastic supporter of the Summer Project, bringing Diop Olugbala and Pete Yaroschuk to speak at a union meeting, recruiting painters to participate and donate skills to the work, and himself donating the use of a pressure washer.
On the day the murals of the African martyrs and leaders came down from the front of the building, a group of young Africans from the East Oakland neighborhood ran up and said “HEY! Did you white people buy this house? You can’t do that!” Secretary General Gaida Kambon came out and explained to them that this project is African-led and that the Uhuru House remained to defend the democratic rights of the community.
However, the suspicion that white people would buy a large community center in the heart of the African and Mexican community is not unfounded in Oakland, which is heavily gentrified. Though the young Africans had never been to a meeting at the Uhuru House before, they understood—as does the whole community—the political significance of the Uhuru House, and are prepared to defend it, as the community in St. Petersburg, FL heroically defended the Uhuru House there in 1996. The community is coming back into political life again in Oakland, led by the tireless organizing and on the ground work of the Party and the Uhuru Movement!
The Biko Lumumba Free Lunch program has already been drawing many children and parents from the impoverished African and Mexican community of East Oakland, as they come together for healthy meals, the children engaging in activities and parents in political education. The program is off to a successful start, reintroducing many families to political life in the Uhuru House.
International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) has led the heart of the OFSP work, which has been community outreach to Africans in downtown Oakland. The Uhuru Solidarity Movement has followed InPDUM’s lead, going into the white community to organize North Americans into the Summer Project work. Both organizations have been quite successful in reaching people and signing up registrants for the projects, winning donations and promoting the project, Sunday Rallies and July 28-29 Black Community Convention.
The outreach in the white community has been significant because, wherever you go in Oakland, white people know at least one institution of the Uhuru Movement, from Uhuru Furniture, to Uhuru Foods and Pies, to the Uhuru chocolate chip cookies, the Uhuru House itself, and even the Uhuru Bakery Cafe, which the State burned down in 1989—people still ask when it is reopening, even in 2012! The impact of the movement is significant even in the wealth-laden, affluent white neighborhoods of Oakland, who know—whether they support it or not—that the Uhuru Movement is a strong force in leading self-determination of the African community not just in California but around the world. The challenge is to bring white people back into principled political life, working under the leadership of the African working class-led Uhuru Movement, in order to forward the work of the OFSP with volunteer labor, in-kind donations and material solidarity through reparations. If the materials and resources donated so far, and the contacts signed up and registered for the OFSP are any indication, then we are well on our way!
That’s not all! USM is building for a community event entitled “Beyond the 60s: Supporting the struggle for black community self-reliance in 2012” on Thursday, July 26th at 7pm at the Niebyl-Proctor Library at 6501 Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, featuring African Socialist International Chairman Omali Yeshitela, African People’s Solidarity Committee Chairwoman Penny Hess and USM Chairwoman Stephanie Midler. This event, which is part of the Oakland Freedom Summer Project, is organizing to build the Day in Solidarity with African People, a national campaign of the USM taking place in October 2012 in Oakland and cities across the U.S., Canada and Europe. Join the campaign! Get more information at http://uhurusolidarity.org.
The Oakland Freedom Summer Project continues!
Get involved! Register today at http://uhurusummerproject.org