Responses are from Baba Makungu who is national organizer and member of the ATL Chapter:
What is your group, and how did it come together? Were you inspired by, or involved in, protests against recent police killings, such as Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, etc? What about earlier incidents, like Katrina, Oscar Grant, or the Jena 6?
We are the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. We are the Mass Association of the New Afrikan People’s Organization, a Revolutionary New Afrikan Nationalist organization. MXGM was founded in 1990 by NAPO as an effort to create a formation that would allow the masses of our people who were not necessarily fully committed to the revolutionary process of national liberation to become involved in the struggle for human rights, self-determination and liberation. Our membership over the years has been involved with every major struggle for human rights from the Jena 6 to Oscar Grant to the Black Lives Matter Movement that has impacted our nation over the past 25 years. While these are important points of struggle for our people, for us the inspiration to fight comes from the centuries long struggle of our people for self-determination and national liberation.
The rioting in Ferguson and Baltimore was controversial throughout the nation. What role do you think rioting plays in the movement?
The people’s uprisings (not riots) in Ferguson and Baltimore were understandable responses of our people to ongoing terrorism and violence by police forces which we call “Operation Ghetto Storm”. While we understand why the people fight back in spontaneous rebellions, this is not what will liberate our people. We believe and we work for organizing the people for mass organized resistance to oppression (making ourselves ungovernable) and refusing to cooperate socially, economically, culturally or politically with the everyday functioning of the US colonial system. This organizing includes organizing our people into New Afrikan People’s Self Defense forces (people’s militias), people’s cooperatives for economic survival, youth groups to create multi-generational participation of the struggle and People’s Assemblies to organize the people around our day to day political needs. It is the people organized, rather than rioting, that will liberate us.
Some groups have proposed reforms that they think will help lower the rate of police brutality, such as body cams, campaign zero, sensitivity training for cops, or civilian review boards. Do you advocate for any reforms? Do you think these reforms will be effective?
Police terrorism against our people (Operation Ghetto Storm) is one symptom of the colonial oppression and occupation our people face. For us the issue is not body cameras. If cameras worked, with all the video we have of police terror, it would be stopped already. Sensitivity training assumes that the issue is poor training or “bad apple cops”. We don’t believe this is the issue. The police are doing what they are trained to do when they kill us. They are trained to be a colonial occupation force to control us by terror. It doesn’t matter if the cop is a “good” one or a “bad” one. It doesn’t matter if the cop is White, Black, Asian or Latin@. They are part of the militarized occupation force and they are doing what they were trained to do, occupy the New Afrikan (so-called African American) colony. We understand that reforms like these or police review boards are not the path to liberation. On the other hand when our people fight for these things we point out their limitations and raise the demand for self-determination and national liberation while not alienating the people around the immediate demands they may raise at the moment. We believe that all “legal means and demands must be exhausted” so that the people will fully understand the our real solution lies in self-determination and national liberation.
The movement has sparked wide-ranging online discussions of strategies for black liberation. What do you think of strategies such as “buying black”? Forming black worker or consumer cooperatives? Strengthening the black family? Are there any other strategies you’re seeing discussed that you feel strongly about, for or against?
In fact we support all of these, though we see them as “tactics” rather than strategies or ends in themselves. Any tactical program which focuses on New Afrikan (so-called African American) self reliance and self-determination is useful for helping to develop our people’s national identity. We believe it is important to strengthen our people’s social and familial relationships. At the same time we fight to dismantle ideas of domination and oppression among the people which exists in some of these relationships. As a Revolutionary Nationalist movement we are anti-sexist, anti-heterosexist, anti-capitalist and pro-socialist. We strive to create a revolutionary culture based on the affirmation of liberation and equal participation for all the people of our community regardless of gender, sexuality or class status.
What has been your orientation to the Say Her Name protests? What ways do you see questions of gender arising in the movement? Do you see a revitalization of feminism occurring? If so, what are its features? If not, why?
As stated above, anti-sexist oppression is an important principle of our movement. We support the work of bringing the oppression of black women into the front of our struggle. We have fought and struggled for these positions and principles over the years. At each epoch we have had to struggle both within our movement and then within our community for recognition of the total liberation of all our people regardless of gender, sexuality or class. The sisters of our movement identify as revolutionary New Afrikan Womanists. We see within the broader Black Liberation Movement as well as the Black Lives Matter Movement that women and queer people are playing important roles of leadership and mass participation and demanding to be able to do so fully as who they are. Our organization fully supports this rising phenomena.
Have you participated in any movement conferences (the Movement for Black Lives convening in Cleveland, etc)? What came out of it? What useful functions do gatherings like these serve for the movement?
Our organization has had representation at just about every major BLM gathering or convening including the MBL Convening in Cleveland. In Cleveland we presented several important workshops aimed at promoting a strategy for the movement beyond a focus on police and toward human rights, self-determination and national liberation as a solution to Black People’s problems. These gatherings can be important for providing spaces to exchange ideas and wage political struggle over a direction for the movement.
What do you feel is the place of nonprofit organizations in the movement? Are they a positive or negative influence, and why?
We believe that nonprofits are a serious negative problem for our movement. We believe that they are used to misdirect the revolutionary potential of the movement and bring the Black Lives Matter Movement into the control of the left wing of the Democratic Party. By dumping huge amounts of funds and jobs to young people in the movement, nonprofits seem to be serving to promote left/liberal “community organizing” as revolutionary work while limiting the revolutionary direction and nationalist direction that our people are taking.
What relationship should the Black Lives Matter movement have to the established political parties, if any? To the electoral system in general?
We promote Malcolm X’s ideas about voting as expressed in his speech “the Ballot or the Bullet”. We support electoral politics as a “tactic” particularly in Black majority counties of the South Eastern United States.
We can not speak about the relationship of the Black Lives Matter movement to established political parties. While we work in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and support the fight against police terrorism, our political work is strategically different than that of the BLMm. Our own position on the question is that we have no relationship with any of the parties of the US empire.
What relationship does the Black Lives Matter movement have to other movements in the U.S, like the immigrants rights, prisoners, or student movements? How do they mutually influence one another other?
Again that would be a question for BLMm to answer. As a human rights and self-determination movement MXGM is in solidarity with peoples who come to the USA as refugees often as a result of US interference into the affairs of their home countries. We fight for an end to the unjust prison industrial complex and especially fight for the freedom of New Afrikan and other political prisoners and prisoners of war from US prisons. We believe that every movement which opposes US colonialism, economic exploitation and imperialism and is in solidarity with people without regards to racial or religious difference can be supported and benefits our own struggle.
Are there any struggles around the world that you think resonate with the struggle for black liberation in the U.S? Which, and why?
Again we are in solidarity with all struggles for self-determination and liberation against colonialism. We are particularly in solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian People against Israeli occupation and colonialism. We support the self-determination and national liberation of the Palestinian people. We Support the liberation struggle of the Puerto Rican nation as well as the struggle of the Native (Indian) nations of North America and the people of occupied Mexico (Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico) and occupied Hawaii. We support these nations struggle because we share a common enemy, US colonialism and imperialism and we all struggle for self-determination and national liberation.
Recent years have seen a resurgence of right-wing violence, such as the Charleston Emmanuel AME massacre and the shooting of protesters in Minneapolis. How should we orient ourselves to this rise in violence?
We support the organizing of New Afrikan Self Defense Militias for our own people and People’s Self Defense Militias among other revolutionary people to defend our communities from white supremacist violence. We believe that our people must be organized and trained to defend our communities, churches, mosques, schools and other institutions against organized white supremacist terror.
Dr. Makungu M. Akinyela
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement