Black Power Blueprint

This article was originally published in The Burning Spear Newspaper on 4/16/2020. The Uhuru Solidarity Movement stands in solidarity with, and is under the leadership of, the African People’s Socialist Party. Learn more and donate at blackpowerblueprint.org 

Bakari:

Deputy Chair, can you describe the scope of work that your office is responsible for?

Deputy Chair Ona Zené Yeshitela:

I sit on the National Central Committee of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) as the Deputy Chair, so I lead and direct all the Party’s economic development in Florida, Philadelphia, California, Alabama, St. Louis. We are also building right now in Occupied Azania and Ghana, as well.

I also develop training for the entire movement to promote economic self-reliance and self-determination for all of our institutions. I provide leadership to all the Party’s economic structures that develop policies, procedures and oversight over the resources and the fundraising of our institutions.

I work closely with the African People’s Solidarity Committee, which is the organization that works directly under the leadership of the African People’s Socialist Party, who are tasked to go into the white community and bring reparations back to the African community.

Some of the other things that I do is provide financial expertise and training for the entire Party, such as the budget. Every department and organization right now has been trained on producing budgets, setting up economic institutions, as well as banking processes.

I develop and implement resource generation and strategies so we can ensure that resources are raised for all of the various programs, events, and conferences, our congresses every five years and our yearly plenaries.

So, these are some of the things I do as well. I’m responsible and accountable for all the collections of all the Party’s funds, and also making sure that all of the monies are secured through financial institutions and things like that. I do audits of financial statements.

I report directly to the APSP’s Central Committee and the Office of the Chair. One of the other things I do is I develop a quarterly financial report for our entire Party.

My background is really in human resources. I spent twenty years working in human resources for the city of Pinellas Park, FL. I’ve developed human resources manuals for our institutions, administrative regulations that we have to follow now, sponsorship documents.

I do an array of types of work. This is not just economic work; it’s political work as well. I really didn’t touch on everything that I do—this is just the overall scope!

Bakari:

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, I’d imagine.

I know that there are over 50 institutions and organizations under your leadership. What is the significance of so many different institutions and organizations?

Deputy Chair Ona Zené Yeshitela:

We have this thing we call dual and contending power, which is a strategy that was created by Chairman Omali Yeshitela back in the 1980’s.

Dual power simply means that our strategy is to organize our people to capture all the political, economic, cultural and social power, while we are in the process of taking all the power over our lives away from the white colonial imperialist State.

So, dual power is the promise that the African working class, under the leadership of the Party, is working to destroy the colonial white power that dominates every aspect of our lives.

Bakari:

Uhuru, that’s really powerful, because I know the Chairman has talked about how this process is a negation of the current capitalist system. And you are negating it very well!

Deputy Chair Ona Zené Yeshitela:

Colonial capitalism is a parasite that feeds off the resources of the colonized people. And when the colonized African working class builds our own economy, it’s a revolutionary act that we are carrying out.

And like you said, we want to negate the colonial economy and replace it with our own. This is creating our own independent, anti-colonial economy that deprives that parasite of the host that is necessary for its very existence.

We’re the African working class and we have to be thinking about how we’re going to become self-governing!

Bakari:

I think it’s so important for the African working class to take that lead, because we know the African petty bourgeoisie doesn’t have the same interests as the African working class. So, I’m really, really appreciative of this work that you do, under the leadership of the African working class.

And speaking of the African working class, I want to take it to St. Louis, Missouri, where there is a great, great project going on there under your leadership. It is called the Black Power Blueprint project. Can you explain the importance of the Black Power Blueprint project in St. Louis right now?

Deputy Chair Ona Zené Yeshitela:

Dual power is one of the reasons why we created the Black Power Blueprint. It’s one of the dual and contending power institutions of our Party.

In 2014, when the police murdered Mike Brown, our Chairman Omali Yeshitela got on a plane and went to Ferguson,which is right now right up the street from the Uhuru House that we have purchased in St. Louis.

During that time our Party had a criticism of all the thousands of opportunists that came into Ferguson after the murder of this little boy. It was activity without any revolutionary aims, unable to answer the question “To what end?” “To what end? How are we going to go forward?”

Our Party is the only organization that has actually built among the masses of the colonized people in St. Louis right now. We have initiated a concrete program of anti-colonial self-determination.

So, I was assigned, as the leader of the economic work, to go into St. Louis back in 2017. One of my tasks was to locate and renovate an Uhuru House, and we did that.

Now we have a 10,000 square foot Uhuru House that was once abandoned.

In less than 10 months, we restored it to a beautiful building where we are actually having programs. People can come and rent, have their birthday parties, wedding receptions in that hall.

We also purchased two commercial properties across the street and demolished those buildings. Now we’re gonna have our One Africa, One Nation Marketplace there and a community garden. So, I’m really excited about that.

We also erected a 50-foot flagpole that has a 25-foot African red, black, and green flag that hangs high and flies every day in the community.

We purchased a four-plex that’s going to be responsible for housing all of our African Independence Workforce Programs.

We also purchased a property right next door to that where we’re putting a basketball court for the youth in that community. Because right now, what’s happening is that the youth are outside playing basketball in the streets.

So you know, those little portable basketball hoops that they pull out and pull in? Well, we want to put in a community basketball court on that lot that we purchased.

And we also purchased Uhuru Jiko, where we plan to open up a café and bakery in the next year. People will be able to come in and rent the commercial kitchen and be able to have their business there.

We’re going to be utilizing that for Uhuru Foods and Pies. So it’s going to be the food industry that we’re targeting, where even people in the African Independence Workforce Program can come out of the prison system and can come and learn a trade skill, and even open up their own business.

We’ve been really busy and the Black Power Blueprint is one of those initiatives that we have launched that is negating the powers that be in St. Louis. So, I’m just really, really excited!

Bakari:

Uhuru, yes, the Black Power Blueprint just resonates with people. “What is Black Power Blueprint?” It’s a great tagline; it catches people’s ears and eyes, and they want to know more.

And people have supported and contributed, too. So I just think it’s a way of, what you were saying, to negate this system in terms of its economic stranglehold it has over the African community.

It’s almost unimaginable what’s been coming out of your office in St. Louis. I really applaud all the efforts of the Black Power Blueprint project.

Deputy Chair Ona Zené Yeshitela:

The International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM)] has been on the ground since 2014. The Black Power Blueprint has been on the ground since only 2017.

So, it’s been like three years that we’ve made all of this happen, and we’ve really changed the whole make-up of that community.

The African community of St. Louis has so much respect for the Party and the Uhuru Movement.

Now people are starting to fix up their houses and properties, because they can really see a change is coming. And a change has come in the name of the Black Power Blueprint and the Uhuru Movement.

Bakari:

Yes, that is why you have the title; it’s a blueprint!

Deputy Chair Ona Zené Yeshitela:

It is!

Bakari:

If we can put it on the ground in St. Louis, we can put it on the ground wherever African people are on the planet!

Deputy Chair Ona, we can’t escape any dialogue without talking about this colonialvirus, this Coronavirus, called COVID-19.

Can you explain to our audience the impact that COVID-19 is having on the institutions and organizations under the leadership of your office of Deputy Chair?

Deputy Chair Ona Zené Yeshitela:

Yes, this COVID-19 virus—we call it the colonialvirus—has really impacted our institutions. And I just want to say that we have amazing, amazing institutions.

We have Uhuru Furniture and Collectibles in Philly, where we just celebrated our 25th anniversary last year. In Oakland, where you’re located, we also have a furniture store which celebrated its 30th year there.

So, the African People’s Education and Defense Fund (APEDF) is where the furniture stores are housed. APEDF’s mission is to actually defend the civil and human rights of the African community and create a program that speaks to the disparities in health, healthcare, economic development and education.

I’m proud to say that we have lived up to our mission, especially during this time of Coronavirus today.

Our Movement is waging a worldwide campaign right now. We’re calling on everybody who has shopped, donated, come into any events, purchased our newspaper The Burning Spear, held any event in our Akwaaba Halls, prepared food in our commercial kitchen, listened to our radio station Black Power 96.3, we’re asking everybody to support and defend these institutions.

We know without the masses of our people, our institutions are nothing, nothing at all.

The Uhuru Movement is responding to COVID-19. We founded The People’s War Commission.

That commission is led by Dr. Aisha Fields, who is the Director of our sister non-profit, the All African People’s Development and Empowerment Project (AAPDEP). Dr. Aisha Fields has been working day and night to get us the best information to put out in the world.

She’s doing livestreams; she’s keeping us informed of how to protect ourselves and prevent the virus from spreading.

She’s also building the Project Black Ankh, which is African people’s answer to the Red Cross.

AAPDEP also has developed brochures packed with all kinds of information on how to keep us safe. Also volunteers are out in the community leaving the literature on all the doors while wearing masks and gloves [this has since been limited to postering].

The people are really responsive to that process, because we are the only organization on the ground who are out with the people trying to let them know that we can beat this virus!

But I just want to say all of our institutions are closed right now. The Philadelphia and Oakland Uhuru Furniture and Collectibles stores, the Uhuru House in St. Petersburg [Florida] and in Oakland and in St. Louis.

These Uhuru Houses are where African people can come, as I stated before, it’s an affordable space for birthday parties, baby showers, family reunions, weddings. This is the third week that our institutions have been closed.

And there was a couple that was supposed to get married the week that we were supposed to close and they actually begged us to remain open because they really wanted to have their wedding!

And so, in Florida at the time, you couldn’t gather more than fifty people. So she weeded her wedding down to like twenty people and she had a beautiful wedding in our Akwaaba Hall.

We have Uhuru Jiko, which is a community licensed kitchen where we have caterers and food truck owners. Anyone in the food business can come out and rent our kitchen at an affordable price.

And one of the people who rents from us has a business called Heavy’s Catering. Heavy’s been renting from us for the past six and a half years now!

And when we told him that we had to close, he was calling me literally every single day, asking me when we’re going to open up.

He has lost $38,000-$40,000 in these last two weeks because people that are in the catering business, have events planned months in advance. People have been cancelling their orders and events with him.

We also have Uhuru Foods and Pies, which you are directly involved in, and that’s closed, too. We cannot sell our comfort food at any of the locations that we’re in right now.

We were scheduled to have our One Africa, One Nation Marketplace Health Fair in Philly on April 25th. We had to cancel that.

We had over 120 vendors who depend on the marketplace to happen every year. This is how they support their families six months out of the year, through APEDF!

Our workers and staff are out of a job. There’s no guarantee that the money the U.S. government allocated with this stimulus package that the Trump administration has put out that’s $2 trillion is going to do anything for the people.

Our first priority is the safety of our people. This is why we shut down all of our institutions.

We’re just asking everybody; we really need your support more than ever now!

We’re asking everyone to get involved in this work to defend and support our furniture stores, our One Africa, One Nation Marketplaces, our food enterprises.

And we really need to raise money right now.

So, we intend on coming out, of course, stronger than we were before this crisis hit. Our tagline, “The Baddest Non-Profit on the Planet,” is something that we fight for all the time and we’re asking people to join us in this fight.

We are demanding that resources are given to the African-owned small businesses and nonprofits.

I don’t know how many times this country has dealt with bailing out the banks, the airlines, Wall Street and all these major corporations.

We are demanding that the government bail out and make African-owned small businesses their first priority in the communities around the world.

So, that’s the status of where we are right now with our institutions. We’re going to figure it out.

Bakari:

I really appreciate that, because you hit it on the nose earlier when you talked about building dual and contending power.

And in essence, we’ve shut down some of our operations for the safety of our people, as you’ve said.

But the bottom line is, our work doesn’t stop. We are still about building dual and contending power, even though this is a temporary setback.

It’s as you just stated, the bailouts that we see, these trillions of dollars that they’re talking about with this stimulus package, the majority of it is going to the big corporations and big money.

And they’re talking about giving people $1,200 maybe in two payments.

Deputy Chair Ona Zené Yeshitela:

It’s crazy.

Bakari:

You can’t even buy a funeral for $1200. It’s true!

Deputy Chair Ona Zené Yeshitela:

Right.

Bakari:

So what it does is it exposes this system, that there is no healthcare system. People don’t even know where to get tested, how to get tested.

There is no relief for the people, particularly for African working-class people. So, I really appreciate you putting out what impact this has had and what it is we have to do.

Deputy Chair Ona Zené Yeshitela:

I also sit on our Party’s The People’s War commission. It’s my responsibility to report on the progress of the economic institutions, how they can obtain benefits.

Right now, they’re putting out that everyone can apply for unemployment. We’re looking at grants and loans and other programs that can help small businesses stay afloat during this difficult time.

So, we have a committee that’s working directly on that. And I’m pleased to say that all of our staff have applied for unemployment in all the various states.

We have helped independent contractors fill out the application to get resources as well. This little bit of money isn’t going to last long!

There’s over 30 million small businesses and nonprofits, so everybody is vying for a small amount of money that can’t satisfy all the needs. So, we are working diligently to make this happen.

Bakari:

I just want to say that the Office of Deputy Chair is like a mini government inside of the African People’s Socialist Party! It is truly self-government! The way everything is being organized and fought for. I just really appreciate that.

How can our readers get involved with building an independent African economy as a negation of a failing capitalist system, which is quite obvious now if people didn’t see it before COVID-19?

Deputy Chair Ona Zené Yeshitela:

Right now, we have built The People’s War Commission, and we’ve also built an ad-hoc steering committee of the Black Power Blueprint.

Right now, we need volunteers. If you know how to write grants, research grants let us know. We have a phonebanking team set up for the furniture stores, Uhuru Foods and Pies, for NZO, Buy Black Power and Black Power 96.3 FM.

Every economic institution that we have, we need volunteers, we need donors, we need the skills that people have. We have a writer’s team to write for The Burning Spear [newspaper], to be in touch with all of our sustainers.

If you make videos, we need a promotions team that consists of people who know how to make videos, graphics, memes, brochures, banners. We also have, if social media is your thing, you can join the social media team.

You can contact us by going to blackpowerblueprint.org.

And you can email us at various locations, one in St. Louis is stlouis@apedf.org.

Also, our national office at info@apedf.org.

Uhuru Furniture at info@uhurufurniture.org.

The Philadelphia furniture store at philly.admin@uhurufurniture.org.

Or you could just simply call our national office at 727-821-2437, and we will get back in touch with you and put you in touch with these various teams that we have built to help people participate in helping us negate this failing [capitalist] economy.

Bakari:

Uhuru! This has been a powerful interview, and I’m not even done yet. This is the kind of discussion that needs to be happening in every household every day, particularly while people are shut in.

I really appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview.

The last question I have is, how do you envision a future of African people with our own independent economic capacity to feed, clothe, and house ourselves?

Deputy Chair Ona Zené Yeshitela:

Wow, that’s a great question.

I envision that not one child would ever go hungry again. Not one elder would be disrespected or go homeless in the streets.

And that all of our brothers and sisters that are locked up in these colonial prisons will be free to help build a society where no one lives at the expense of another.

We must fight! We know that this U.S. government system is only motivated by profit.

Trillions of dollars are going to the corporations and banks, as we’ve already stated. This money is African people’s tax money, we want it back now!

Last week, there were 3.3 million people who filed for unemployment. This week, over 6 million people have filed for unemployment, the largest number in U.S. history.

So, we’re building economic institutions based on the needs of the people.

This is who we are and this is who we always have been, bringing the community together and creating our own solutions to feed, clothe and house ourselves. And having African self-determination and power over our own lives.

We must keep reminding our people that we are at a point of no return. We are on a mission, and we are not turning back!

Bakari:

Uhuru! This is so powerful, Comrade. Thank you so much!

As you were talking, what blasted in front of my head was the Party’s 14-Point Platform, “What we want; what we believe.”

And we will win everything that you just put forth in terms of this vision of a free and independent people without children born hungry or people stuffed in these colonial prisons.

The thing that I really, really appreciated is that we have an organization, we have science, we have leaders on the ground winning this among our people.

And that is the thing that excites me and that I know is going to ensure that everything that we planned is to be carried out.

So, I really appreciate, again, you taking your time out of your busy schedule.

Is there anything you want to say just to tie it off, Comrade?

Deputy Chair Ona Zené Yeshitela:

I just really want to say that I salute Chairman Omali Yeshitela, who’s been in this fight for 50 plus years for the liberation of Africa and African people worldwide.

It’s not just here in the United States, but it’s the whole continent of Africa that we’re fighting for.

So, we have to keep that in mind when we talk about building a liberated anti-colonial economy. It’s not just here, because our fight is really in Africa. And that’s where we want to take it.

So, I just really appreciate you as well for all the dedicated years of service that you have put into the African People’s Socialist Party and Uhuru Foods and Pies. I just really want to appreciate your stance as well, Comrade Bakari.

I just want to say that you can be anything you want to be in the African People’s Socialist Party. Anything! Uhuru!