Members of the newly formed Seattle branch of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement! Jesse Call, membership; Anthony Mustacich, secretary; Anne Hirsch, president; Anelise Moon treasurer.
THE REPARATIONS DEMAND CHANGES EVERYTHING
In August of 2014, around the time of the Ferguson uprising, I was the sole member of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement in the city of Seattle, Washington. Two years later, USM Seattle is the largest branch in the country. This is the story of how African Internationalism, the theory and strategy of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP), made this happen.
I’m Anne Hirsch. I first met the Uhuru Movement in 2000 when I lived in St. Petersburg, Florida, the Movement’s headquarters. Chairman Omali Yeshitela was running for mayor. Citizens United for Shared Prosperity was a campaign created by the Uhuru Movement to continue working on the mayoral platform for economic development for the African community and an end to police containment of that same community. I took an active role in that campaign.
As a member of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, I volunteered at Uhuru Furniture and the Uhuru Foods booth at the Sunday Market and participated in other social justice campaigns of the Party.
In 2012, Trayvon Martin was murdered by a white vigilante in Florida, just a few months after I moved to Seattle. In 2014, Eric Garner was murdered by police in July. Then Mike Brown was murdered and left laying in the streets of Ferguson for 8 hours in August.
In Ferguson young Africans began to resist!
This resistance woke me up! I realized I could no longer sit on the sidelines, enjoying my white lifestyle here in Seattle. while the 600 year legacy of the murder of Africans in the USA continued.
I attended local protests in Seattle and visited meetings of organizations where white people could participate with local black led groups working against systemic racism. But something was missing.
The revolutionary analysis of African Internationalism as put forth by Chairman Omali Yeshitela had made it clear to me that racism was not the problem. It was colonialism that had created the current situation. I knew from what I had learned form the Party that the only way a white person could honestly contribute to African Liberation was to work under the leadership of the African Revolution and pay reparations.
I realized that the African People’s Socialist Party was the only organization on the planet that had a revolutionary analysis, a long history of resistance and long standing institutions to put this political line out into the world. They were the only organization that gave me, a white person, the opportunity to work directly under their leadership. accountable to them and paying back the stolen resources, lives and culture by raising reparations from the white community.
I knew what to do! I contacted Uhuru Solidarity Movement president – Jesse Nevel.
By late fall of 2014, I decided to attempt something new that had never been done before by USM. I would build a branch of USM in a city where there was no APSP or International Democratic Uhuru Movement (the mass movement of APSP) functioning locally.
With leadership from the national organizing committee of USM to guide me, I began to go to demonstrations and meetings called by other organizations, always introducing myself as a member of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement working under the leadership of the African led Uhuru Movement. I also began to pass out fliers on the sidewalk at the edges of a local farmer’s market once or twice a month.
In January of 2015 another white woman previously unknown to me saw the national USM Convention online, and attended. When she returned the national committee hooked her up with the Seattle work and a team of two was formed for a short time.
But it was slow-going, what with raising only a few dollars at a table each week, postering diligently and still having only one or two people come to each monthly event. The second force who had not seen USM in action for long dropped out in the Summer of 2015.
However, the tenacity of USM, under the leadership of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) ~which I had observed over the 14 years since I had first met the movement~ demonstrated to me that this reparations work was a long term strategy with a long term goal. I knew from the example of the strong APSC comrades that persistence was important. African people have been suffering and dying under the colonial oppression of the African Nation within the borders of the USA for over 600 years. This was not going to be overturned overnight.
APSP has been struggling and building the African Revolution since the 1960s, through all of the push-back of government assassinations of the Civil Rights leaders, assassinations of Black Power movement leaders, through the governments introduction of drugs into the African community to destabilize it, through fear that created apathy in the people. These African leaders have never quit.
The African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) created the African People’s Solidarity Committee (APSC) 40 years ago, with the Uhuru Solidarity Movement (USM) being its mass front. These steeled comrades had led the white reparations work through the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, a time when African resistance was not visible to white people who were basking in ongoing prosperity at the expense of the rest of the world.
Through all this time the Party had built remarkable economic, political and social institutions by in and for the poor and working class African community. I knew that once begun I could not quit struggling to build a branch of USM in Seattle no matter what it took.
I tabled on my own. I put out fliers on my own. I was the sole person holding the USM banner at demonstrations. I was the sole USM member out raising reparations at weekend tabling. This kind of work did not come easily too me. I had to push outside my comfort level standing at a small table with a jar for reparations, fliers and copies of the Burning Spear Newspaper engaging with any white person I could interest to stop and talk to me.
I would never have done this without the analysis of African Internationalism and a structure set up by the Party to scientifically engage in revolutionary work. I would not have understood that the capitalist system that allows me to feel safe, prosperous and creative systematically exterminates Africans through public policy, police murder, terroristic attacks on their communities and extreme crises created with intent like those in Flint, Michigan and the Katrina aftermath in New Orleans.
How could I give up the struggle while one more black life could be taken in an instant with impunity?
With the help of USM national, I planned to create a Days in Solidarity with African People (DSAP) event in October of 2015. That attempt failed to bring Chairman Omali to Seattle, but made some contacts who would prove helpful in 2016.
Almost immediately after that failed attempt, I began to plan for a Reparations Tour Event in March of 2016.
I went out tabling more often now, raising reparations, building awareness of the USM and continuing to go out to make contact with other organizations.
Come December 2015, another Seattle woman was contacted by Wendy Craig of the national Steering Committee of USM via Facebook. Wendy put Marian Galvan in touch with me and I invited her to a one on one orientation to USM. Marian united immediately saying that African Internationalism was what she had been looking for. She joined straight away and came out tabling with me and informed her FB contacts about the next local USM event.
That event was attended by another USM sustaining member from Tennessee who was in town. along with a co-worker of mine, a friend of Marian and another woman who had come to a prior USM events. Janet Van Fleet had been reading the Burning Spear Newspaper since the last event she attended. She joined that night and began to actively participate.
Now there were 3 active members in USM in Seattle. Marian went to the 2016 Party Plenary and USM national event that followed the next day.
In January of 2016 a contact I had made while attempting to build a Days in Solidarity with African People (DSAP) event helped me to get a free venue at a local University where we could hold the Reparations Tour. It had 120 seats available. Could we fill it? I was my intention that we would.
Again, I began to work to find funding to bring the Chairman — but again I was unsuccessful. Still I was making deeper contact with the local white community. One organization I visited donated $82 by passing the hat after I spoke to them about USM looking for partners to make the Reparations Tour happen. At that meeting others offered newspaper coverage in the local homeless news project Real Change, housing at an Air B & B, and help getting the word out about the event.
These various inroads and offers of support from the local community boosted my confidence and we scheduled for USM to send APSC Chairwoman Penny Hess to speak at the Seattle event.
About this time a young Seattle man who had found the Party online and was applying to be part of the African People’s Solidarity Committee (APSC) was put in touch with me. Anthony brought three friends to the next week’s tabling, and from that week on Anthony and his friend Jesse Call tabled each week with USM Seattle. Jesse C. began raising reparations from his taxi customers, too.
Now there was team of USM members. Marian, Janet, Jesse, Anthony and I worked together to promote the Reparations Tour Event.
Within a week or two the Facebook event page for the Reparations Tour had over 300 people “interested” and over 70 people marked “going”. Using this as the basis for connecting we used Eventbrite tickets for folks to reserve a seat. More and more people reserved until we had 130 tickets spoken for.
The Reparations demand changed everything. This reparations demand put forth by the Party – that all white people owe reparations and we can individually contribute reparations now – was new to Seattle and was obviously lighting up the imaginations of local white folks and Africans.
I felt we had enough interest that we could invite a Party member. Herdosia Bentum, President of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) was to be present as a guest speaker.
Media work commenced. In the end, three newspapers: The Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, and Real Change interviewed me and wrote an article about white reparations to African people and the upcoming event. Other media outlets posted our event on their calendars.
The event was a huge success. 70 people attended. 6 new members joined the Uhuru Solidarity Movement (USM), and over $2000 was raised in reparations to the African People’s Socialist Party’s revolutionary work.
INPDUM branch formed
The next day, Africans who attended the event met with Herdosia Bentum and formed the executive committee of a branch of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) in Seattle.
Uhuru Solidarity Movement Branch formed.
Two weeks later an official branch of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement was established in Seattle. Two of our comrades are going to the USM National Convention, and plans are being made to bring Chairman Omali to Seattle in October of 2016.
This dynamic struggle has only just begun, but the foundations are in place. The discipline of the Party and the governing structure that has long sustained the work of the APSP has been put in place to assure that yet another institution of the African People’s Socialist Party will be a long lasting force and a new front for the African Revolution.
Once again white people are abandoning “white power” and putting their efforts toward a world free of oppression of African and other oppressed peoples. Once again the Party has been proved right in its assessment that white people can be won to a principled stand in solidarity with African Liberation and reparations!