APEDF and Community Partners Hold Press Conference: “Stop the School Closings & End the Disparities in Philly!”

APEDF and Community Partners Hold Press Conference: “Stop the School Closings & End the Disparities in Philly!”

Kianga Danielle, International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement
Kianga Danielle, International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement

On Thursday, March 14th, 2013 the African People’s Education & Defense Fund (APEDF), Uhuru Furniture Philadelphia, the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, Uhuru Solidarity Movement and other community partners held a press conference at Uhuru Furniture in Center City Philadelphia to put forth the African community’s demand for the City of Philadelphia to stop the closing of 23 public schools and end the achievement gap and disparities in education, health and economic development for the African community in this city.

The press conference, MCd by Uhuru Furniture Business Campaign Manager Tina Mouzone, featured Alison Hoehne, Manager of Uhuru Furniture in Philadelphia speaking on behalf of APEDF (statement below), Kianga Danielle of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, Philadelphia public schools parent and community activist Denita Bates, Uhuru Solidarity Movement Philadelphia chair Harris Daniels, and statements sent by healing practitioner Ajua Hawkins and the Bush Medicine Partnership (also below).

Don’t miss the “Being White in Philly – In Solidarity with African Resistance” forum held by Uhuru Solidarity Movement:

Uhuru Solidarity Center
3733 Lancaster Ave, West Philly
215-387-0919, philly@uhurusolidarity.org

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/g9xBg4_3TgI?p=1 width=”550″ height=”443″]

Below is the full statement delivered by USM organizer Harris Daniels:

Harris Daniels, Uhuru Solidarity Movement
Harris Daniels, Uhuru Solidarity Movement

UHURU!  Uhuru Means Freedom! My name is Harris Daniels and I am the local chair of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement here in Philadelphia. We fully unite with APEDF and the black community’s demand for economic development instead of police containment and we reject the attacks and vicious criminalization of the African community being expressed through the school closings, the intensified police containment and brutality of the African community, and mostly recently in Philadelphia Magazine’s cover article, “Being white in Philadelphia.”

As an organization of white people working under the leadership of the African-led Uhuru Movement, we believe it is high time for us to examine what it really means to “be white in Philadelphia” – a city where Africans face horrendous conditions of poverty, police violence, mass incarceration and healthcare disparities – and how we can take an active role in rectifying the ever widening racial divide between whites and Africans in this city and the country at large.

Gentrification is able to move forward rapidly due to a long-standing unity between the white homeowners and the police. Much destruction to African communities is done under the guise of making the neighborhood “safer” and “better” while pushing out the black community.  But in reality, this keeps the communities “unsafe” and the race relations hostile. We need to work together to solve this. If everyone in Philadelphia opposed the school closings, the poverty, the police brutality and mass imprisonment, it would have to end!

Today, Africans in Philadelphia face conditions of abject poverty, with 31% of the African community living below the official poverty line. With one hand the government forces Africans out of their communities and into conditions of dire poverty and exploitation, and with the other hand they contain the African community through the imposition of police.  The City’s 2013 budget allocates 33% to police, courts and prisons, and only 6% to Health and Social Services.

The “Being White in Philadelphia” article assumes that the entire black community in North Philly is criminal and dangerous.  The reality is that the 22nd and 39th District Police have been exposed and even imprisoned for massive frame-ups of thousands of Africans – in that exact area of North Philly – planting drugs & falsely testifying against them, sending them to prison, stealing their money from individuals including grandmothers, and from corner bodegas. This “scandal” was actually opened up by a Temple University student who was framed himself for drugs planted on him by the police.

Hundreds of young African and Puerto Rican men have been murdered by these same police in the past 30 years. A cop was just found not guilty of punching a Puerto Rican woman in the face, caught on video, in the Puerto Rican Day Parade.

The real criminals and drug dealers– the bankers, politicians and pharmaceutical industry executives who hide behind neckties and business suits –never face a day in prison.
We have to face the fact that while our white children are going to college, African children in this city are being locked down in droves in the children’s prison in West Philadelphia, known as the “Youth Studies Center” – where over 80% of youth locked down are black males.

Tina Mouzone, Uhuru Furniture Business Campaign Manager
Tina Mouzone, Uhuru Furniture Business Campaign Manager

White people own 22 times the assets of African families even in this time of economic downturn — for white people these are assets passed down from generation to generation. As much as no one wants to talk about it, the conditions of the African community are the result of an unbroken reality resulting from the enslavement of a whole continent of people and the theft of the land of the indigenous people, something that built the economic infrastructure of the U.S. and Philadelphia in particular.

The fact that the bodies of enslaved Africans lay under the so-called “Liberty Bell” tells the story that from the very beginning the deck has always been stacked on the side of white people at the expense of Africans and the Native people. We could say that gentrification began around 1492 when the first white people set foot in this hemisphere. Hundreds of years later, those who got the land, the jobs and opportunities still justify their trampling on other communities by assuring themselves that the victims of their gentrification are not truly human beings.

Philadelphia is closing 23 public schools – over 10% of district schools – dislodging and undermining the education of 14,000 African students & disrupting African communities throughout the city.

One out of five of all young African men in the city of Philadelphia is under the grip of the criminal “justice” system, either serving time in jail, on probation or parole, or in juvenile detention. Seventy-five percent of those on probation or parole for supposed “robbery”, and nearly 80 percent of those in juvenile detention, are young African men. These are the conditions that form the basis for any interaction between a white person and an African person in the city of Philadelphia and in this country.

There is no “reverse racism”. There is the relationship of the oppressor to the oppressed. If we want to rectify this relationship we have to take a stand of genuine solidarity with the rights of African people to resist these foul conditions and fight for what is rightfully theirs – economic self-reliance, self-determination for African people.

Denita Bates, Philadelphia Public Schools parent and community activist
Denita Bates, Philadelphia Public Schools parent and community activist

Our “safety” cannot come at the expense of bullet ridden bodies of young Africans murdered by the police. If we want to have safe communities for all people and the ability to relate to each other and to Africans without fear or anger, then we have to start by facing the truth about what it really means to “be white in Philadelphia.”   It means living at the expense of African people.

We have a responsibility and an interest in supporting the struggles of African people working to overturn this reality.  Only an organized African community fighting back can make that happen. The Uhuru Movement is precisely that. And the Uhuru Solidarity Movement is part of that organization, created specifically for white people to join in solidarity with this positive vision by organizing in material solidarity with African liberation.  How much longer do we expect we can get away with living off the misery and poverty of African people? It’s time for us to take action!.

We invite all forward-thinking, freedom minded people who wish to be active allies of the African community’s struggle for self-determination to join us for a Community Forum on Thursday, April 11th at 7pm at the Uhuru Solidarity Center in West Philly. Community speakers will address these conditions and offer solutions – and we want YOUR participation.  UHURU!

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