Over the past few weeks there have been a couple of events that have brought the various organizations and formations of the DC activist community together. First was the transition of Geronimo Ji Jaga and second was the Metro Transit Police Officer attack on a homeless man named Dwight Harris. These two events have a great level of significance because they highlight a very necessary, but at times a somewhat difficult concept in our community and that concept is UNITY.
On June 10th, 2011 at Umoja House in North East Washington DC, 10 - 15 organizations that have different ideologies, social statuses, and organizing tactics came together to honor Geronimo Ji Jaga. At that commemoration we learned that Geronimo who was often associated with being a member of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense was actually never a member. In fact he worked with many organizations and formations. It was clear that he recognized that although we have different outlooks as to the issues and the solutions that face our people, we all have something of value to offer.
In the case of Dwight Harris we not only saw a handicapped Blackman attacked by the Metro Transit Police, we saw an attack on our entire community. We all saw the need for some action, because the issue of police misconduct is so intense that no matter if you have a PhD., a G.E.D. or if you are a Christian or a Muslim, this is an issue that effects the entire Black community. We united to form a coalition to address police misconduct.
However, after a couple of community meetings and some personal conversations with individuals involved in the coalition, I have noticed that we have spent too much time discussing ideological differences and who has the best solution for the people. The reality is NO ONE ORGANIZATION OR INDIVIDUAL has the right to claim a monopoly on what is best for our people. No one organization can honestly say they represent all of our people. The best one organization or individual can do is claim a particular constituency.
When we focus on the differences we have, we further deepen the factionalism that already exists amongst our organizations, we create more animosity, alienate some and push others away from wanting to become part of a movement that is supposed to be about unity. All the while the same system that we are supposed to be struggling against is continuing to disenfranchise us. Working in cohesion is not an easy task. It will require a great amount of humility, understanding, patience and focus. We are not coming together to challenge each other’s ideological positions, but to empower our community against police misconduct. We can have unity without uniformity. We all have something to contribute. Our community is in a better position when we work together.
In the words of Malcolm X, “What you and I need to do is learn to forget our differences. When we come together, we don't come together as Baptists or Methodists. You don't catch hell 'cause you're a Baptist, and you don't catch hell 'cause you're a Methodist..... You catch hell 'cause you're a black man. You catch hell, all of us catch hell, for the same reason....We have a common enemy. We have this in common. We have a common oppressor, a common exploiter, and a common discriminator. But once we all realize that we have a common enemy, then we unite on the basis of what we have in common."
Let us not repeat the mistakes that many made before us during the Civil Rights and Black Power Era's. Let us not fall victim to VULGAR INDIVIDUALISM, COINTELPRO and the Willie Lynch syndrome. Let us squash the beefs and settle our differences, its either unity or death.
Forward Ever Backwards Never,
National Vice Chairperson of Organizing & Training
National Black United Front