for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael
(Kwame Ture) /
Black-Power:The Politics of Liberation
Stokely Speaks: From Black Power to Pan-Africanism
The New Abolitionists
* * *
Power, A Critique of the System
Of International White Supremacy &
By Stokely Carmichael
We have intended to prepare a written speech
for this Congress, and had started to prepare it three weeks
before the trip, but the US government thought that I was
starving it would be better if they saw to it that I got some
meals every day, so they confined me to their prison system, and
I lost all the notes. So
I tried to get another one together.
Now since I’ve been at the Congress from
Saturday I’ve been very confused, because I’m not
psychologist or a psychiatrist, I’m a political activist and I
don’t deal with the individual.
I think it’s a cop out when people talk about the
we’re talking about around the US today, and I believe around
the Third World, is the system of international white supremacy
coupled with international capitalism.
And we’re out to smash that system.
And people who see themselves as part of that system are
going to be smashed with it—or we’re going to be smashed.
So that I’m not going to center on the
individual—I’m not even going to talk about him at all.
I want to talk about the system.
I want to use some quotes to back up my feeling about
talking of the system, and the first one comes from one of my
patron saints: Frantz Fanon.
His quote is that
|Freud insisted that the individual factor be
taken into account through psychoanalysis.
It will be seen the black man’s alienation is not an
individual question. It
is a question of socio-diagnostics.
The Negro problem does not resolve itself into the
problem of Negroes living among white men, but rather of Negroes
exploited, enslaved, despised by the colonialist, capitalist
society that is only accidentally white.
But since it is accidentally white, that’s
what we talk about white western society.
Now the other reason that I don’t talk
about the individual is that I feel that whenever you raise
questions about racial problems to white western society, each
white man says ‘Well don’t blame me, I’m only one person
and I really don’t feel that way.
Actually I have nothing against you, I see you as an
just as good as I am—almost.’
And to try and clear that up I want to point out the
difference between individual racism as opposed to
It is important to this discussion of racism
to make a distinction between the two types:
individual racism and institutional racism. The first type consists of overt acts by individuals, with
usually the immediate result of the death of victims, or the
traumatic and violent destruction of property.
This type can be recorded on TV cameras and can
frequently be observed in the process of commission.
The second type is less overt, far more
subtle, less identifiable in terms of specific individuals
committing the acts, but is not less destructive of human life.
The second type is more the overall operations of
established and respected forces in the society, and thus does
not receive the condemnation that the first type receives.
Let me give you an example of the first type:
When unidentified white terrorists bomb a black church
and kill five black children, that is an act of individual
racism, widely deplored by most segments of the world.
But when in that same city, Birmingham, Alabama, not five
but 500 black babies die each year because of lack of proper
food, shelter and medical facilities; and thousands more are
destroyed and maimed physically, emotionally and intellectually
because of conditions of poverty
and discrimination in the black community, that is a function of
When a black family moves into a home in a
white neighbourhood, and it's stoned, burned or routed out, the
latter is an overt act of individual racism, and many people
condemn that, in words at least.
But it is institutionalized racism that keeps the black
people locked in dilapidated slums, tenements, where they must
live out their daily lives subject to the prey of exploiting
slum landlords, merchants, loan-sharks and the restrictive
practices of real-estate agents.
We’re talking now about the US, but I think
you can apply a little of it to London.
But the society either pretends it does not know of
institutionalized racism, or is incapable of doing anything
meaningful about the conditions of institutionalized racism.
And the resistance to doing anything meaningful about
institutionalized racism stems from the fact that western
society enjoys its luxury from institutionalized racism, and
therefore, were it to end institutionalized racism, it would in
fact destroy itself.
O.K. then, now I want to talk about
de-mystifying human beings, and I’m talking about the Third
World, I’m not talking about the white West.
I think that the Third World are the people whom, at
least in the US, black people are concern with.
The white West has been able to do very well for itself.
I want to talk, then, very specifically about a number of
things under that.
The first is the importance of definitions.
The second: we
want to talk about cultural integrity versus cultural
then we want to talk about the US, specifically the cities and
the rebellions (as opposed to ‘riots’ as they are called by
the white press) that are occurring in the US, which are going
to lead to guerrilla warfare.
And we want to talk about violence because the West is
always upset by violence when a black man uses it.
I want to start with definitions by using a
quote from one of my favourite books, which is Alice in
Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll.
In the book there’s a debate between Humpty Dumpty and
Alice around the question definitions.
It goes like this:
‘When I use a world,’ Humpty
Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, ‘It means just
what I choose it to mean.
Neither more or less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice,
‘whether you can make words mean so many different
‘The question is,’ said Humpty
Dumpty, ‘who is to be master.
That is all.’
Now I think that Lewis Carroll is correct.
Those who can define are the masters.
And white western society has been able to define, and
that’s why she has been the master. And we want to follow up with a lot of those examples,
because I think that the white youth of my generation in the
West today does not understand his own subconscious racism,
because he accepts the writings of the West, which has
destroyed, distorted and lied about history, so that he starts
off with a basic assumption of superiority which is not even
Frederick Douglas, the great black leader of
the 1800s, said that when a slave stops obeying a master, then
and only then does he seek his liberation.
Camus said the same thing 100 years later on the first
page of The Rebel, when he said that when a slave stops
accepting definitions imposed upon him by his master, then and
only then does he begin to move and create a life for himself.
That’s very important, because what the people of the
Third World are going to have to do today is to stop accepting
the definitions imposed on them by the West.
Let’s give some examples.
The first one is that the history books tell
you that nothing happens until a white man comes along.
If you ask any white person who discovered America,
they’ll tell you ‘Christopher Columbus’.
And if you ask them who discovered China, they’ll tell
you ‘Marco Polo’. And
if you ask them, as I used to be told in the West Indies, I was
not discovered until Sir Walter Raleigh needed pitch lake for
his ship, and he came along and found me and said ‘Whup—I
have discovered you.’ And
my history began.
But let us examine the racism in that
statement. Let us
examine it very closely. Columbus
did not discover America. Columbus
may be the first recorded white man to have set foot in America.
That is all. There
were people there before Columbus.
Unfortunately, those people were not
white—unfortunately for the white West, fortunately for us,
they weren’t white. But
what happens is that white western society never recognizes the
existence of non-white people, either consciously or
that all around the world, the peoples of the Third World never
did anything until some white man came along—and that’s why
China’s non-existent, because Mao won’t let no white folk in
And pretty soon Hong Kong is going to be non-existent
because they’re going to kick them out.
So that the situation you have is that
history has been written—but indeed it has been so distorted.
One of the biggest lies, I think, that western society
could have told was to name itself Western Civilization.
And now all through history we were studying Western
Civilization, and that meant that all else was uncivilized.
And white kids who read that today never recognize that
they’re being told that they are superior to everybody else
because they have produced civilization.
At best, that’s a misnomer, at worst, and more
correctly, it’s a damn lie.
Civilization has been anything but civilized.
It has been more barbaric, as a matter of fact.
We are told that Western Civilization begins with the
Greeks, and the epitome of that is Alexander the Great.
The only thing that I can remember about Alexander the
Great was that at age twenty-six he wept because there were no
other people to kill, murder and plunder.
And if you’re not satisfied with that, you could always
take the Roman Empire.
Their favourite pastime was watching men kill
each other or lions eating up men.
They were a civilized people.
The fact is that their civilization, as they called it,
stemmed from the fact that they oppressed other peoples.
And that the oppression of other people allowed them a
certain luxury, at the expense of those other people.
That has been interpreted as ‘civilization’ for the
West, and that is precisely what it has done.
The only difference is that after the Roman Empire, when
the British Empire—on which the sun never used to set, but
today it sets, sometimes it don’t even rise—began to exploit
non-white people, what they did was they let colour be the sole
choice of the people they would exploit.
Now that’s very important because as we go
along you can see one of the best examples you can see today.
You see, because you’ve been able to lie about terms,
you’ve been able to call people like Cecil Rhodes a
philanthropist, when in fact he was a murderer, a rapist, a
plunderer and a thief. But
you call Cecil Rhodes a philanthropist because what h did was
that after he stole our diamonds and our gold, he gave us some
crumbs so that we can go to school and become just like you.
And that was called philanthropy.
But we are renaming it:
the place is no longer called Rhodesia, it is called
Zimbabwe, that’s its proper name.
And Cecil Rhodes is no longer a philanthropist, he’s
known to be a thief—you can keep your Rhodes Scholars, we
don’t want the money that came from the sweat of our people.
Now let us move on to present times.
I’m always appalled when some white person tells me
that ‘progress is being made’.
I always ask him ‘progress for whom?
And from whom?’ Progress
for white people might be made, because I would say that since
World War II they have learned a little about how to get along
with people of colour. But
I don’t think there’s been progress for the black people,
there’s not been progress for the people of colour around the
Third World. And
progress will not be measured for us by white people.
We will have to tell you when progress is being made. You cannot tell us when progress is being made, because
progress for us means getting you off our backs, and that’s
the only progress that we can see.
Now then, we want to talk about cultural
integrity versus cultural imposition, because that stems from
the white West felt somehow that it was better than everybody
else—I remember when I was a young man in the West Indies, I
had to read Rudyard Kipling’s The White Man’s Burden.
I thought the best thing the white could do for me was to
leave me alone, but Rudyard Kipling told them to come and save
me because I was a half savage, half child.
It was very white of him.
What has happen is that the West has used force to impose
its culture on the Third World wherever it has been.
If a few settlers left England to go to
Zimbabwe, there was no reason for them to rename that country
after themselves, Rhodesia, and then force everybody to speak
their language, English. If
they had respect for the cultures of other people, they would
have spoken the language of those people and adopted their
religions. But what
in fact happened was because the West was so powerful—that’s
the word nobody want to talk about, power.
It was the only power that made people bow their heads to
the West, you know. They
didn’t bow it because they liked Jesus Christ, or because they
liked white folks.
No, Machiavelli said a long time ago that
"people obey masters for one of two reasons.
Either they love them, or they fear them.’" I often ask myself whether or not the West believes the Third
World really loves them and that’s why they’ve obeyed them.
But it’s clear that they feared them.
The West with its guns and its power and its might came
into Africa, Asia, Latin America and the USA and raped it.
And while they raped it they used beautiful
terms. They told
the Indians ‘We’re civilizing you, and we’re taming the
West. And if you
won’t be civilized, we’ll kill you.’
So they committed genocide and stole the land, and put
the Indians on reservations, and they said that they had
civilized the country.
They weren’t satisfied with that. They came to Africa and stole Africans and brought them to
the USA, and we were being brought there to be ‘civilized’,
because we were cannibals and we ate each other, and they were
going to give us a better life, which was, of course, slavery.
Now I want to make just one clear
distinction, before I move on, in terms of cultural integrity.
Inside the countries of the West there was democracy for
the whites, at least some form of it.
But that democracy was at the expense of non-white
people. While Britain surely enjoyed her papers, and her
Parliamentary nonsense about constitutionality, she was
suppressing all of Africa.
The same thing holds true for France, and De Gaulle still
suppresses Somaliland, I would like to inform him; and the same
thing, of course, is true today for the US.
White people are very funny, you know.
De Gaulle got out of Vietnam a few years ago, and now
he’s gotten very broad-minded.
But he’s still in Somaliland.
So what the West was able to do is impose its
culture and it told everyone ‘we are better, we are
civilized’. And because of its force, all of the non-white countries
began to try to imitate Europe and to imitate its ways, and to
try and copy it because nobody wanted to be uncivilized. …
Our ancestors had recognized that they knew what
civilization was long before Europeans even got out of their
caves, and that they should have stuck to their way of life.
Had they done that, perhaps we shouldn’t be in the
shape we are in today.
So that all other non-western people have
been stripped of their own culture.
They have been forced to accept a culture that does not
belong to them. And
so messed up are the minds of people of colour around the world,
that in certain sections of Vietnam today, and in Japan
certainly, women who have slanted eyes are cutting their eyes so
that they can get round eyes to look like the West.
Needless to say what black people have been doing to
their hair, especially females:
they have been putting hot combs in their hair,
straightening it, attempting to look like white people, because
the West has defined beauty as that which was theirs—the white
woman, who was supposed to be taboo.
And so the non-white world began to copy and
to imitate, began to do all of these things of the West.
I think what is happening in the world today is that
there’s a fight for cultural integrity.
Each group of people wants to retain its own integrity,
and say ‘To Hell with the West and its culture.
Let it keep it. We
want ours.’ I don’t propose to speak for the Red Guards, but I would
assume that that’s fight and it needs to be waged.
I know in the US that one of the fights that we’re
waging is the fight for our own cultural integrity.
We want to be able to recognize the contributions that
non-white people of the world have made.
It’s amazing that, when you do some reading, you find
out that they did most of what the white people claim that they
did. They just
distorted history. Pythagoras
didn’t give you geometry, the Egyptians gave it to you.
I have something against England, I really
do. Because when I
was young I had to read all that rot about how good England was
to Trinidad, while she was raping us left and right.
And all I used to read about London when I was small was
the beauty of London, and how peacefully everybody lived, and
how nice life was—at my expense.
And I used to say ‘I sure would like to get to London
and burn it down to the ground.’
But that’s violence!
Now the trouble with the West is that it
feels it has the right to give everybody their
independence. That’s totally absurd.
You can never give anyone their independence.
All men are born free.
They are enslaved by other men.
So that the only act that the men who enslaved them can
do is, not give them their independence, but stop oppressing
them. There’s a
very important difference, and I don’t think people make that
distinction all the time.
I’m amazed when I pick up the paper and
read that ‘England today decided to give independence to the
West Indies.’ Who
the hell is England to give my independence?
All they can do is stop oppressing me, get off my back.
But it sounds so much nicer when they say, ‘We’re
giving you your independence.
You’re ready for it now.’
Rather than for them to admit to themselves ‘We’re
going to stop oppressing you because you’re becoming a little
bit more civilized; or because you’re making it uncomfortable
for us and we can no longer afford to oppress you at the price
that you’re asking us to pay.’
Which is correct. But you wouldn’t expect self-condemnation.
So that you cannot grant anybody
independence, they just take it.
And that is what white America is going to learn.
They cannot give us anything.
No white liberal can give me anything.
The only thing a white liberal can do for me is to help
civilize other whites, because they need to be civilized.
Now in order to move on to the US—because I
know what’s on everybody mind is the rebellions and the
guerrilla warfare that is taking place inside the US—I’d
just like to read some of the notes that I jotted down, so that
you can maybe get a clearer picture, because you don’t live in
the States. However,
I don’t think you really need that much of a clearer picture,
because England isn’t far behind.
It is estimated that in another five to ten
years two thirds of the 20 million black people that inhabit the
US will be living in the ghettoes, in the heart of the cities.
Joining us are going to be hundreds of thousands of
Puerto Ricans, Mexican Americans, and people of the American
Indian population. The
American city, in essence, is going to be populated by the
peoples of the Third World while the white middle classes will
flee to the suburbs.
Now the black people do not control, nor do
we own, the resources—we do not control the land, the houses
or the stores. These
are all owned by whites who live outside the community. These are very real colonies, in the sense that there is
cheap labour exploited by those who live outside the cities.
It is white power that makes the laws, and enforces those
laws with guns and sticks in the hands of white racist policemen
and their black mercenaries.
It does not seem that at any point the men
who control the power and resources of the US ever sat down and
designed those black enclaves, and formally articulated the
terms of their colonial and dependent status, as was done, for
example, by the Apartheid government of South Africa which both
Britain and the US and France backs.
Yet one cannot distinguish between one ghetto and another
as one moves around the US.
It appears as if each ghetto is the same.
Note that the US has, within its continental
borders, forty-eight states, and each of these states has a
ghetto in all of its major cities.
As one moves from city to city it is as though some
malignant, racist, planning unit had done precisely this;
designed each one from the same master blue-print.
And indeed, if the ghetto has been formally and
deliberately planned, instead of growing spontaneously and
inevitably from the racist functionings of the various
institutions that combine to make the society, it would somehow
be less frightening.
The situation would be less frightening,
because if these ghettoes were the result of design and
conspiracy, one could understand their similarity as being
artificially and consciously imposed, rather than the result of
identical patterns of white racism which repeat themselves in
cities as far apart as Boston is from Watts—that is 3,000
We understand that capitalist system
automatically contains within itself racism, whether by design
or not. Capitalism and racism seem to go hand in hand.
The struggle for Black Power in the US, and certainly the
world, is the struggle to free these colonies from external
domination. But we
do not seek merely to create communities where, in place of
white rulers, black rulers control the lives of black masses,
and where black money goes into a few black pockets.
We want to see it go into the communal pocket.
The society we seek to build among black
people is not an oppressive capitalist society.
Capitalism, by its very nature, cannot create
structures free from exploitation.
The question may be asked, how does the
struggle to free these internal colonies relate to the struggle
against imperialism all around the world?
We realistically survey our numbers and know that it is
not possible for black people to take over the whole country
militarily. In a
highly industrialized nation the struggle is different. The heart of production and the heart of trade is in the
are in the cities. We
can become, and are becoming, a disruptive force in the flow of
services, goods and capital.
While we disrupt internally and aim for the eye of the
octopus, we are hoping that our brothers are disrupting
externally to server the tentacles of the US.
That’s very important, because Newark, New
Jersey, is where Engelhart has his capital—and for the last
five days he couldn’t do any work.
Good move for the Africans.
You know who Engelhart is, don’t you-you don’t—you
should read about South Africa, he controls most of it, along
with Rockefeller, the liberal; from the US.
It is sometimes said that the
African-American movement in the US does not understand the true
nature of the struggle in the world today; that the movement is
involved in fighting only racial discrimination, and only with
the weapon of non-violence.
It used to be. As
you know, the Black Power movement which SNCC initiated moved
away from the movement for integration.
This was not only because the movement’s
goals were middle class—such as job opportunities for college
graduates, equal public facilities—and not only because white
Americans’ concept of integration was based on the assumption
that there was nothing of value in the black community and that
little of value would ever come from the black community—and
that’s very important, because the West doesn’t understand
its own racism when they talk about integration.
When they talk about integration, they talk
about accepting black people—isn’t that ridiculous?
I had to talk about whether or not I want to accept them,
and they’re never willing to talk about that, because they
know they’ll come up losing.
So that integration is absolutely absurd unless you can
talk about it on a two-way streak, where black people sit down
and decide about integration.
That means if you’re really going to talk about
integration, you don’t talk about black people moving into
white neighbourhoods, you talk about white people moving into
Because of the middle-class orientation of
the integration movement, and because of its subconscious
racism, and because of its non-violent approach, it has never
been able to involve the black proletariat.
It could never attract and hold the young bloods who
clearly understood the savagery of white America, and who were
ready to meet it with armed resistance.
It is the young bloods who contain especially the hatred
Che Guevera speaks of when he says, and I quote:
"Hatred as an element of the struggle,
relentless hatred of the enemy that impels us over and beyond
the natural limitations of man, and transforms us into
effective, violent, selected and cold killing machines.'
The Black Power movement has been the
catalyst for the bringing together of these young bloods—the
real revolutionary proletariat, ready to fight by any means
necessary for the liberation of our people.
* * * *
The Black Power movement in the US is
exposing the extent of the racism and exploitation which
permeates all the institutions in the country.
It has unique appeal to young black students on campuses
across the US. These
students have been deluded by the fiction in white America that
if the black man would educate himself and behave himself, he
would be acceptable enough to leave the ranks of the oppressed
and have tea with the Queen.
However, this year, when provoked by savage
white policemen, students on many campuses fought back, whereas
before they had accepted these incidents without rebellion.
As students are a part of these rebellions, they begin to
acquire a resistance-consciousness.
They begin to realize that white America might let a very
few of them escape, one by one, into the mainstream of a
society, but as soon as blacks move in concert around their
blackness she will reply with the fury which reveals her true
It is necessary, then, to understand that our
analysis of the US and international capitalism is one that
begins in race. Colour
and culture were, and are, key factors in our oppression.
Therefore our analysis of history and our economic
analysis are rooted in these concepts.
Our historical analysis for example views the US as being
conceived in racism.
Although the first settlers themselves were
escaping from oppression, and although their armed uprising
against their mother country was around the aggravation of
colonialism, and their slogan was ‘no taxation without
representation’, the white European settlers could not extend
their lofty theories of democracy to the red men, whom they
systematically exterminated as they expanded into the territory
of the country which belonged to the red men.
Indeed, in the same town in which the
settlers set up their model of government based on the theory of
representative democracy, the first slaves were brought from
Africa. In the
writings of the glorious Constitution, guaranteeing ‘life,
liberty, the pursuit of happiness’ and all the other garbage,
these rights for white men only, for the black man was counted
only as three fifths of a person.
If you read the US Constitution, you will see that this
clause is still in there to this very day—that the black man
was three fifths of a man.
It was because white America needed cheap or
free labour that she raped our African homeland of millions of
black people. Because
we were black and considered inferior by white Americans and
Europeans, our enslavement was justified and rationalized by the
so-called white Christians, who attempted to explain their
crimes by spouting lies about civilizing the heathens, pagans,
savages from Africa, whom they portrayed as being ‘better
off’ in the Americas than they were in their homeland.
These circumstances laid the systematic base and
framework for the racism which has become institutionalized in
white American society.
In our economic analysis, our interpretation
of Marx comes not only from his writing, but, as we see it, from
the relationship of capitalistic countries to people of colour
around the world. Now
I’m going to use the Labour Movement as an example to show
what happens when people in a white country in the West organize
themselves when they’re being oppressed. I want to use the Labour Movement in the US because it’s
always quoted around the world as the real movement, or friend,
of the black man, who is gong to be able to help him.
This is true for all other little white countries when
the white workers organize—here’s how they get out of the
The Labour Movement of the US—while in the
beginning certainly some of their great leaders in the struggle
were against the absolute control of the economy by the
industrial lords—essentially fought only for money.
And that has been the fight of white workers in the West.
The fight for one thing—more money.
Those few who had visions of extending the fight for
workers’ control of production never succeeded in transmitting
their entire vision to the rank and file.
The Labour Movement found itself asking the
industrial lords, not to give up their control, but merely to
pass out a few more of the fruits of this control.
Thereby did the US anticipate the prophecy of Marx, and
avoided the inevitable class struggle within the country by
expanding into the Third World and exploiting the resources and
slave labour of people of colour.
Britain, France, did the same thing.
US capitalists never cut down on their domestic profits
to share with the workers.
Instead, they expanded internationally, and threw the
bones of their profits to the American working class, who lapped
them up. The
American working class enjoys the fruits of the labours of the
Third World workers. The
proletariat has become the Third World, and the bourgeoisie is
white western society.
And to show how that works—and not only how
it works just in terms of the bourgeoisie—I’ve watched the
relationships of whites to whites who are communist, and whites
to non-whites whom they called communist.
Now every time the US wants to take somebody’s country,
they get up and say ‘Communists are invading them and
terrorist guerilla warfare is on the way, and we must
protect democracy, so send thousands of troops to Vietnam
to kill the Communists.’
Italy is a white country.
Over one third of its population is communist.
Why doesn’t the US invade Italy?
Tito is an acknowledged communist.
The US gives him aid.
Why don’t they invade Tito’s country, if they really
care about stopping communism? The US is not kidding anybody.
When they want to take over somebody’s land who is
non-white, they talk about communist aggression — that’s
what they did in Cuba, in Santo Domingo, and it’s what
they’re doing in Vietnam.
They’re always telling people how they’re going to
stop them from going communist.
And don’t talk about dictatorship.
Franco is perhaps the worst dictator in the world today,
but the US gives him aid.
So that is clear it is not a question of
communist invasion; it’s really a question of being able to
take the countries they want most from the people, and the
countries they most are obviously the non-white countries
because that is where the resources of the world are today.
That’s where they have been for the last few centuries.
And that’s why white western society has to be there.
Now we want to make two distinctions, because
when rebellions break out in the large cities of America, the
first thing that people say is that they’re riots.
And white western society is very good, the first thing
they want is order; law and order.
‘We must have law and order.’
They never talk about justice, because they’re
incapable of talking about it.
Hitler had the most efficient system of law and order
I’ve ever seen. He
happened to have been a fascist.
He did not have justice coupled with his law and order.
The US knows about law and order, it doesn’t know about
justice. It is for
white western society to talk about law and order.
It is for the Third World to talk about justice.
Now we want to talk just a little about
God’s sake, I don’t understand how the white West can ever
talk against violence. They are the most violent people on the face of the earth.
They have used violence to get everything they have.
And yet they’re the first to talk against violence.
The armed rebellions and the guerrilla warfare going on
in the US today is not the most violent thing going on in the
South Africa, Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, Aden, Somaliland—that’s
where your violence really is.
For violence takes many forms.
It can take the form of physical warfare, or it can take
the form of a slow death.
The Jews in the Warsaw ghettoes were
suffering from violence. It
didn’t take an actual physical form until they were put in the
gas chambers, but they were suffering from mental violence.
Wherever you go in Africa today, the Africans are
suffering from violence, violence inflicted on them by the white
West, be it that they are stripped of their culture, of their
human dignity, or of the resources of their very land.
And it is crystal clear to the peoples of the
Third World today that it’s time out for talk.
There can be no talk about how to stop violence.
That’s clear because even Camus talks about that, even
though he cops out. Camus
talks about executioner/victim.
He says, well, there’s executioner/victim relationships
in society, and the executioner uses force to keep his victim
down. But the
victim get tired of that. And
what happens is that when the victim moves either to a position
of equality or to try to conquer the executioner, he uses the
force and the means and the methods that his oppressor used to
keep him down. That
happens to be violence. I
never get caught up with violence.
As a matter of fact, one of my favourite
quotes on that, to stop all the talk about it, is a quote from
Sartre, which my patron saint used.
What then did you expect when you
unbound the gag that had muted those black mouths?
That they would chant your praises?
Did you think that when those heads that our
fathers had forcefully bowed down to the ground were
raised again, you would find adoration in their eyes?
That’s Jean-Paul Sartre, not me.
We are working to increase the revolutionary
consciousness of black people in America to join with the Third
World. Whether or
not violence is used is not decided by us, it is decided by the
white West. We are
fighting a political warfare.
Politics is war without violence.
War is politics with violence.
The white West will make the decision on how they want
the political war to be fought.
We are not any longer going to bow our heads to any white
man. If he touches
one black man in the US, he is going to go to war with every
black man in the US.
We are going to extend our fight
internationally and we are going to hook up with the Third
World. It is the
only salvation—we are fighting to save our humanity. We
are indeed fighting to save the humanity of the world, which the
West has failed miserably in being able to preserve.
And the fight must be waged from the Third World.
There will be speakers.
They will be Che, they will be Mao, they will be Fanon.
You can have Rousseau, you can have Marx, you can even
have the great libertarian John Stuart Mill.
I want to tell you why violence is important
in terms of building a resistance-consciousness in the US.
Now I want to use a quote which we learned from Germany:
The triumph of the Storm Troopers required
that the tortured victim allow himself to be led to the gallows
without protesting, that he repudiate and abandon himself to the
point where he ceases to affirm his identity.
There is nothing more terrible than these
processions of human beings going to their death like human
afraid black Americans cannot afford to march to the gallows the
way Jews did. If
the US, white America, decides to play Nazis, we’re going to
let them know the black Americans are not Jews, we’re going to
fight back to the death.
And in case you think that sounds very
violent, let me remind you of a poem that your great, great
Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, read when you were
getting ready to attack Germany, even though you were told that
you were a minority. He
read a poem, incidentally, I don’t know if he told you, which
was written by a black man named Claude McKay from Jamaica, and
he wrote it for black people.
It's called ‘If we must die’.
It is our poem today in the US.
Its message goes something like this:
We will nobly die, fighting back, and
for each of the thousand blows we will deal one death
we’re going to die like men.
We are not going to take the oppression of white
society any longer.
That is clear in our minds.
How it is in white society’s mind is another
question, but they are not defining for us any longer
our struggle. We
will define our struggle and we will carry it out as we
We have to extend our fight internationally,
not only because such a consciousness would destroy within black
communities the minority complex so carefully calculated by the
American press, but
also because we know that if the black man realizes that the
counter-insurgency efforts of the US are directed against his
brothers, he will not fight in any of their wars.
He will not go.
Then it will become crystal clear to the
world that the imperialist wars of the US are nothing less than
racist wars. During
the past year we have initiated a black resistance movement to
the Draft, which is being led by our hero, the World Champion,
Mr Mohammed Ali. Not
only because we’re against black men fighting their brothers
in Vietnam, but also because we’re certain that the next
Vietnam will either be in the Congo, in South Africa, in
Zimbabwe, Bolivia, in Guatemala, in Brazil, in Peru, or indeed
in the West Indies. And
we are not going to fight our brothers.
And to answer your question about violence,
the African-American has tried for the past 400 years to
peacefully coexist inside the US.
It has been to no avail.
We have never lynched a white man, we have never burned
their churches, we have never bombed their houses, we have never
beaten them in the streets.
I wish we could say the same for white people around the
Our history demonstrates that the reward for
trying to peacefully coexist has been the physical and
psychological murder of our peoples. We have been lynched, our houses have been bombed, and our
churches burned. We
are now being shot down like dogs in the streets by white racist
policemen. We can
no longer accept this oppression without retribution.
We understand that as we expand our resistance, and
internationalize the consciousness of our people, as our
martyred brother Malcolm X did, we will get retaliation from the
government, as he did.
As the resistance struggle escalates we are
well aware of the reality of Che’s words, when he says:
The struggle will not be a mere
street fight, but it will be a long and harsh struggle.
And to the end, we are going to work with our
common brothers and sisters in the Third World to fight this
I would like to conclude, then, by telling
you just precisely what black people in America are going to do,
and when we’re going to do it, and how we’re going to do it,
and why we’re going to do it.
This is your only chance to hear it clear, because
you’ll be hearing it from the BBC next time.
Black people in the US have no time to play
nice polite parlour games, especially when the lives of our
children are at stake. Some
white Americans can afford to speak softly, tread lightly,
employ the soft sell and put-off—or is it put-down?—because
they own the society. For
black people to adopt their methods of relieving our oppression
is certainly ludicrous.
We blacks must respond in our own way, on our
own terms, in a manner which fits our temperaments.
The definition of ourselves, the road we pursue, the
goals we seek are our responsibility.
It is crystal clear that society is capable of, and
willing to, reward those individuals who do not forcefully
condemn it—to reward them with prestige, status and material
benefits. But these
crumbs of corruption will be rejected.
The plain fact is that as a people we have absolutely
nothing to lose by refusing to play such games.
Anything less than clarity, honesty and
forcefulness perpetuates the centuries of sliding over, dressing
up and soothing down the true feelings, hopes and demands of an
oppressed black people. Mild
demands and hypocritical smiles mislead white America into
thinking that all is fine and peaceful; they lead white America
into thinking that the path and pace chosen to deal with racial
problems are acceptable to the masses of black Americans.
It is far better to speak forcefully and truthfully.
Only when one’s true self, black or white, is exposed
can society proceed to deal with the problems from a position of
clarity, and not from one of misunderstanding.
Thus we have no intention of engaging in the
rather meaningless language so common to discussions of race in
the world today. They
Things were and are bad, but we are
making progress. Granted,
your demands are legitimate, but we cannot move hastily.
Stable societies are best built slowly.
Be careful that you do not anger or alienate your
white allies. Remember,
after all, you are only ten per cent of the population.
We reject the language and these views,
whether expressed by blacks or by whites.
We leave them to others to mouth, because we don’t feel
that this rhetoric is either relevant or useful.
Rather we suggest a more meaningful language—that of
Frederick Douglas, a great black man who understood the nature
of protest in society. He
Those who profess to favour freedom,
yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without
ploughing up the ground.
They want rain without thunder and lightning.
They want the ocean without the awful wrath of
its many waters.
Power concedes nothing without
demands—it never did and it never will.
Find out just what any people will quietly submit
to, and you have found out the exact measure of
injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them.
And these will continue until they are resisted
with either words or blows, or with both.
The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the
endurance of those whom they oppress.
He was a slave.
Black Power, to us, means that black people
see themselves as a part of a new force, sometimes called the
Third World; that we see our struggle as closely related to
liberation struggles around the world.
We must hook up with these struggles.
We must, for example, ask ourselves:
when black people in Africa begin to storm Johannesburg,
what will be the reaction of the US?
What will be the role of the West, and what will be the
role of black people living inside the US?
It seems inevitable that the US will move to
protect its financial interests in South Africa, which means
protecting the white rule in South Africa, as England has
already done. Black
people in the US have the responsibility to oppose, and if not
to oppose, certainly to neutralize the effort by white America.
This is but one example of many such situations which
have already arisen around the world; there are more to come.
There is only one place for black Americans
in these struggles, and that is on the side of the Third World.
Now I want to draw two conclusions.
I want to give a quote from Fanon.
Frantz Fanon in The Wretched of the Earth puts
forth clearly the reasons for this, and the relationships of the
concept called Black Power to the concept of a new force in the
This is Mr Fanon’s quote:
Let us decide not to imitate Europe.
Let us try to create the whole man, whom Europe
has been incapable of bringing to triumphant birth.
Two centuries ago a former European colony
decided to catch up with Europe.
It succeeded so well that the USA became a
monster in which the taints, the sickness and the
inhumanity of Europe has grown to appalling dimensions.
The Third World faces Europe like a
colossal mass, whose aim should be to try to resolve the
problems to which Europe has not been able to find the
is a question of the Third World starting a new history
of man, a history which will have regard to the
sometimes prodigious thesis which Europe has put
forward, but which will also not forget Europe’s
crimes, of which the most horrible was committed in the
heart of man and consisted of the pathological tearing
apart of his functions and the crumbling away of his
No, there is no question of a return to
nature. It is
simply a very concrete question of not dragging men towards
mutilation, of not imposing upon the brain rhythms which very
quickly obliterate it and wreck it.
The pretext of catching up must not be used for pushing
men around, to tear him away from himself or from his privacy,
to break and to kill him.
No, we do not want to catch up with anyone.
What we want to do is go forward all the time, night and
day, in the company of man, in the company of all men.
Since there’s been a lot of talk about
psychology, I’ve thought up a psychological problem.
White liberals are always saying ‘What can we do?’
I mean they’re always coming to help black people.
And I thought of an analogy.
If you were walking down the street and a man
had a gun on another man—let’s say both of them were
white—and you had to help somebody, whom would you help?
It’s obvious to me that if I were walking down the
street, and a man had a gun on another man, and I was going to
help, I’d help the man who didn’t have the gun, if the man
had the gun was just pulling the gun on the other man for no
apparent reason—if he was just going to rob him or shoot him
because he didn’t like him.
The only way I could help is either to get a
gun and shoot the man with the gun, or join the fellow who
doesn’t have a gun and both of us gang up on the man with the
gun. But white
liberals never do that. When
the man has the gun, they walk around him and they come to the
victim, and they say "Can I help you?."
And what they mean is ‘help you
adjust to the situation with the man who has the gun on
So that if indeed white liberals are going to
help, their only job is to get the gun from the man and talk to
him, because he is in fact the sick man.
The black man is not the sick man, it is the white man
who is sick, he’s the one who picked up the gun first.
So the psychologists ought to stop
investigating and examining people of colour, they ought to
investigate and examine their own corrupt society.
That’s where they belong.
And once they are able to do that, then maybe we can move
on to build in the Third World.
I want to conclude, then, by reading a poem
that was written by a young man who works in SNCC, the
organization for which I work.
His name is Worth Long.
It’s called ‘Arson and Cold Grace, or How I Yearn to
Burn, Baby, Burn’.
* * * * *
Arson and Cold Grace,
or How I Yearn to Burn Baby, Burn
By Worth Long
We have found you out, four face
Americas, we have found you out.
We have found you out, false faced
farmers, we have found you out.
The sparks of suspicion are melting
And waters can’t drown them, the
fires are burning
And firemen can’t calm them with
And preachers can’t pray with
hopes for deceiving
Nor leaders deliver a lecture on
Nor teachers inform them the chosen
For now is the fire and fires
To logical reason and hopefully
Hot flames must devour the kneeling
And torture the masters whose idiot
Get lost in the echoes of dancing
We have found you out, four faced
farmers, we have found you out.
We have found you out, four faced America, we have found you
To Free a Generation: The
Dialectics of Liberation, edited by David Cooper. London: Collier
posted 22 February 2006
* * *
Hamer's speech at the 1964 DNC
Fannie Lou Hamer (born
Fannie Lou Townsend on October 6, 1917 – March 14, 1977) was an
American voting rights activist and
civil rights leader. She was instrumental in organizing
Freedom Summer for the
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and later
became the Vice-Chair of the
Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, attending the
1964 Democratic National Convention in
Atlantic City, New Jersey, in that capacity. Her
plain-spoken manner and fervent belief in the
Biblical righteousness of her cause gained her a reputation
as an electrifying speaker and constant activist of civil
rights. . . .
On August 23, 1962, Rev.
James Bevel, an organizer for the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and an associate of Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a sermon in Ruleville,
Mississippi and followed it with an appeal to those assembled to
register to vote. . . . Hamer was the first volunteer. She
later said, "I guess if I'd had any sense, I'd have been a
little scared—but what was the point of being scared? The only
thing they could do was kill me, and it seemed they'd been
trying to do that a little bit at a time since I could
On August 31, she traveled
on a rented bus with other attendees of Bevel's sermon to
Indianola, Mississippi to register. In what would become a
signature trait of Hamer's activist career, she began singing
Christian hymns, such as "Go
Tell It on the Mountain" and "This
Little Light of Mine," to the group in order to bolster
their resolve. . . . Bob Moses . .. dispatched Charles McLaurin
. . . to find "the lady who sings the hymns". McLaurin found and
recruited Hamer. . . . On June 9, 1963, Hamer was on her way
Charleston, South Carolina with other activists from a
literacy workshop. Stopping in
Winona, Mississippi, the group was arrested on a false
charge and jailed. Once in jail, Hamer and her colleagues were
beaten savagely by the police, almost to the point of death.
Released on June 12, she
needed more than a month to recover. . . Hamer was invited,
along with the rest of the MFDP [Mississippi Freedom Democratic
Party] officers, to address the Convention's Credentials
Committee. She recounted the problems she had encountered in
registration, and the ordeal of the jail in Winona, and, near
tears, concluded: "All of this is on account we want to register
to become first-class citizens, and if the Freedom Democratic
Party is not seated now, I question America. Is this America,
the land of the free and the home of the brave where we have
to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be
threatened daily because we want to live as decent human
Hubert Humphrey (who was campaigning for the
Vice-Presidential nomination), [along with]
Walter Mondale, and
Walter Reuther, as well as
J. Edgar Hoover . . . suggested a compromise which would
give the MFDP two non-voting seats in exchange for other
concessions, and secured the endorsement of
Martin Luther King, Jr. and the
Southern Christian Leadership Conference for the plan. But
when Humphrey outlined the compromise, saying that his position
on the ticket was at stake, Hamer, invoking her Christian
beliefs, sharply rebuked him:
"Do you mean to tell me
that your position is more important than four hundred thousand
black people's lives? Senator Humphrey, I know lots of people in
Mississippi who have lost their jobs trying to register to vote.
I had to leave the plantation where I worked in
Sunflower County, Mississippi. Now if you lose this job of
Vice-President because you do what is right, because you help
the MFDP, everything will be all right.
God will take care of you. But if you take [the nomination]
this way, why, you will never be able to do any good for civil
rights, for poor people, for peace, or any of those things you
talk about. Senator Humphrey, I'm going to pray to Jesus for
Future negotiations were
conducted without Hamer, and the compromise was modified such
that the Convention would select the two delegates to be seated,
for fear the MFDP would appoint Hamer. In the end, the MFDP
rejected the compromise, but had changed the debate to the point
that the Democratic Party adopted a clause which demanded
equality of representation from their states' delegations in
* * *
Stokely Speaks; Black Power Back to
By Stokely Carmichael
Standiford Churchill Carmichael—(June 29, 1941 -
November 15, 1998), also known as Kwame Ture, was a
Trinidadian-American black activist active in the
1960s American Civil Rights Movement. He rose to
prominence first as a leader of the Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced
"Snick") and later as the "Honorary Prime Minister"
of the Black Panther Party. Initially an
integrationist, Carmichael later became affiliated
with black nationalist and Pan-Africanist movements.
He popularized the term "Black Power."
In 1965, working as an SNCC activist in Lowndes
County, Alabama, Carmichael helped to increase the
number of registered black voters from 70 to 2,60 —
300 more than the number of registered white voters.
Black residents and voters
organized and widely supported the Lowndes County Freedom
Organization, a party that had the black panther as its mascot,
over the white dominated local Democratic Party, whose mascot
was a white rooster. Although black residents and voters
outnumber whites in Lowndes, they lost the county wide election
Carmichael became chairman of SNCC later in 1966, taking over
from John Lewis. A few weeks after Carmichael took office, James
Meredith was attacked with a shotgun during his solitary "March
Against Fear". Carmichael joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
Floyd McKissick, Cleveland Sellers, and others to continue
Meredith's march. He was arrested once again during the march
and, upon his release, he gave his first "Black Power" speech,
using the phrase to urge black pride and socio-economic
"It is a call for black
people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to
build a sense of community. It is a call for black people to
define their own goals, to lead their own organizations."
While Black Power was not a new concept, Carmichael's speech
brought it into the spotlight and it became a rallying cry for
young African Americans across the country. According to Stokely
Carmichael : "Black Power meant black people coming together to
form a political force and either electing representatives or
forcing their representatives to speak their needs [rather than
relying on established parties]. Heavily influenced by the work
of Frantz Fanon and his landmark book Wretched of the Earth,
along with others such as Malcolm X, under Carmichael's
leadership SNCC gradually became more radical and focused on
Black Power as its core goal and ideology. This became most
evident during the controversial Atlanta Project in 1966.
SNCC, under the local
leadership of Bill Ware, engaged in a voter drive to promote the
candidacy of Julian Bond for the Georgia State Legislature in an
Atlanta district. However, unlike previous SNCC activities—like
the 1961 Freedom Rides or the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer —
Ware excluded Northern white SNCC members from the drive.
Initially, Carmichael opposed this move and voted it down, but
he eventually changed his mind. When, at the urging of the
Atlanta Project, the issue of whites in SNCC came up for a vote,
Carmichael ultimately sided with those calling for the expulsion
of whites, reportedly to encourage whites to begin organizing
poor white southern communities while SNCC would continue to
focus on promoting African American self reliance through Black
Carmichael saw nonviolence as a tactic as opposed to a
principle, which separated him from moderate civil rights
leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr.. Carmichael became critical
of civil rights leaders who simply called for the integration of
African Americans into existing institutions of the middle class
Gil Noble’s (1932-2012) Legendary Interview with Stokely
Carmichael—Black Power Speech
* * *
Power, A Critique of the System
Power / What We Want
Kish Mir Tuchas
Tribute to Kwame Toure/Stokely Carmichael
* * *
Mukoma wa Ngugi
Her womb pressed against the desert to
bear the parasite
that eats her insides like termites
drill into dry wood.
He is born into an empty bowl, fist
choking umbilical cord.
She dies sighing, child son at last. He
couldn't have known,
instinct told him - always raise your
arm in defense of your
own -Strike! Strike until they are all
dead! Egg shells
in your hands milk bottle held between
you have been anointed twice, you strong
enough to kill
at birth and survive. You will want to
name the world
after yourself but you will have no
name- a collage of dead
roots, tongues and other things. You
will point your sword
to the center of the earth, duel the
world to split into perfect
mirrors after your imperfect mutations
but you will be
too weak having latched your self onto
too many streams
straddling too many continents, pulling
patches of a self
as one does fruits from an from an
orchard, building a home
of planks with many faces. How does one
look into a mirror
with a face that washes clean every
He has an identity for every occasion -
here he is Lenin
there Jesus and yesterday Marx -
inflexible truths inherited
without roots. To be nothing to remain
nothing, to kill
at birth - such love can only drink from
our wrists. We
storming from our past to Jo'Burg eating
wisdom of others
building homes made of our grandparent's
gathering momentum that eats out of our
earth, We standing
pens and bullets hurled at you, your
enemies. Comrade, there
are many ways to die. A dog dies never
why it lived but a free death belongs to
a life lived in roots,
roots not afraid of growing where they
stand, roots tapped all over
the earth. Comrade,
for a tree to grow, it must first own
* * * *
"Black Power"—Kalen M. A. Churcher—Speaking
at Morgan State College in Baltimore on
January 28, 1967, Carmichael displayed the
very different style he used when addressing
a predominantly black audience. Joking about
how he partied at the school and
participated in a sit-in near campus when he
was younger, he also gave his audience at
Morgan State a serious charge: overcoming
the negative connotations of "black" that he
had talked about in Berkeley. "If you want
to stop rebellion," he said, "then eradicate
Carmichael then spoke of
their responsibilities as leaders and
intellectuals within the black community:
"It is time for you to stop running away
from being black. You are college students,
you should think. It is time for you to
begin to understand that you, as the growing
intellectuals, the black intellectuals of
the country, must begin to define beauty for
black people."— Stokely
Carmichael, "At Morgan State," in
Stokely Speaks; Black Power Back to
Pan-Africanism, ed. E.N.
Minor (New York: Random House, 1966),
Carmichael—Black Power Speech /
Gil Noble’s (1932-2012) Legendary Interview with Stokely
* * *
What We Want
By Stokely Carmichael
Christian Goon Squad in Black Baltimore
Clarence Logan and the Northwood Movement
Marion Bascom Civilrighting
Roy Wilkins and Spiro Agnew in
Agnew Speaks to Black
Baltimore Leaders 1968
* * *
John Henrik Clarke—A Great and Mighty Walk
video chronicles the life and times of the
noted African-American historian, scholar
and Pan-African activist
John Henrik Clarke
(1915-1998). Both a biography of Clarke
himself and an overview of 5,000 years of
African history, the film offers a
provocative look at the past through the
eyes of a leading proponent of an Afrocentric view of history. From ancient
Egypt and Africa’s other great empires,
Clarke moves through Mediterranean
borrowings, the Atlantic slave trade,
European colonization, the development of
the Pan-African movement, and present-day
* * *
Walter Hall Lively
Forty Years of Determined Struggle
Baltimore's People First
Dominance of Johns Hopkins
A Brief Economic History of Modern Baltimore
Understanding the Monumental City: A
Bibliographic Essay on Baltimore History (Richard
The End of Black Rage? Class and Delusion in
Black America (Jared Ball) /
The Black Generation Gap (Ellis Cose)
* * *
* * *
Life on Mars
By Tracy K. Smith
Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars has been selected as the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In its review of the book, Publishers Weekly noted the collection's "lyric brilliance" and "political impulses [that] never falter." A New York Times review stated, "Smith is quick to suggest that the important thing is not to discover whether or not we're alone in the universe; it's to accept—or at least endure—the universe's mystery. . . . Religion, science, art: we turn to them for answers, but the questions persist, especially in times of grief. Smith's pairing of the philosophically minded poems in the book’s first section with the long elegy for her father in the second is brilliant." Life on Mars follows Smith's 2007 collection, Duende, which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, the only award for poetry in the United States given to support a poet's second book, and the first Essence Literary Award for poetry, which recognizes the literary achievements of African Americans.
The Body’s Question (2003) was her first published collection. Smith said Life on Mars, published by small Minnesota press Graywolf, was inspired in part by her father, who was an engineer on the Hubble space telescope and died in 2008.
* * * *
The Last Holiday: A Memoir
By Gil Scott Heron
Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered.
* * *
(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
21 April 2012