UHURU Movement: Crime of Genocide against African People in the United States

This is Part II of our series of interviews with Chairman Omali Yeshitela, founder of the Uhuru movement.

For almost four centuries, Black people were forcefully taken from their homes, put in chains, shipped off to America and forced to work day and night under the yolk of the white man. Even after the abolition of slave trade, Africans who found themselves far away from home on another continent were constantly oppressed, abused and killed. It is no hidden fact that the slave trade has led to a weakening of Black people and our home continent of Africa, as most of our strongest men, women and children were shipped off into slavery. How do we put a number on one of the greatest and most atrocious genocides in the history of mankind? The International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) is championing the Petition on Crime of Genocide against African People in the United States to demand the payment of reparations to African people. In part two of our series, Chairman Omali explains to us the reasons behind the petition and how these reparations will be collected and utilized. He also explained in detail the message of the Uhuru Movement and how its greatest inspiration has been Malcolm X.

Part I of the series of interviews with Omali Yeshitela

Part III of the series of interviews with Omali Yeshitela

blackmattersus.com
Could you please tell us more about the Petition on Crime of Genocide against African People in the United States?
Omali Yeshitela
Yeah, we think that’s really important. It is a petition to the United Nations, something that was kicked off by the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) which is a mass organization under the leadership of our party. It is one of the ways that we’ve adopted to take this whole question of the conditions and circumstances confronted by African peoples in this country, taking away the simple-minded kind of domestic issue that somehow the United States government is just mistreating a sector of its citizenship. And we said that that’s not the case at all, that this is a genocide that we have been affected and are being affected by and that this is an international question, there is an international convention opposed to the crime of genocide, and we think that taking this to the United Nations certainly gives us an international platform that helps us to challenge this narrative of the United States government being some kind of benevolent force out in the world bringing democracy and freedom to other peoples and of course, in most instances, using the struggle for democracy as a means by which it would attack and destroy governments and countries’ leaders that are not friendly to it. So we said that here’s the United States government treading on international stages as some kind of champion of democracy, it’s guilty of committing genocide against African people in the United States and we want to take this campaign, Africans Charge Genocide, throughout the world and give everybody an opportunity to sign on in opposition to the United States government, and to contribute in circulating and isolating the United States government in international affairs.
blackmattersus.com
That’s a great step you guys have taken and we hope to see a positive outcome from this petition. But our readers want to know, why is 14 trillion dollars quoted as the amount of reparations? Where from this figure, who should get the money and to what end is the money going to be used?
Omali Yeshitela
Those are really important questions. Why not 14 trillion dollars or even more? It’s been calculated. First, I authored a book some years ago that charged the United States with expropriating value from our people in the United States alone, that for just labor alone took a tune of 4.1 trillion dollars. That was in 2001-2002, and even that was the first time that a real effort had been made to quantify the amount of value that had been expropriated from Black people. Since that time, other scholars have joined the fray and they have calculated and come up with a higher figure of 14 trillion dollars, and even that is an understatement when you recognize that when you look at the total economy of the United States of America and in fact, not just the U.S but just holding it to the United States, you will see that the capitalist economy itself has its origins in the attack, enslavement and trade in Black people. So virtually every bit of the economy starts from there with the only exception being that portion of the economy that you could account from the stolen land of the indigenous peoples here. I don’t know how much value you would put on the land base itself, you know, with indigenous people now living in concentration camps that they call Indian reservations. So 14 trillion dollars really only begins to touch the amount of resources stolen from African people. But it is something that has been calculated and I think even if someone would google 14 trillion dollars owed in reparations, you would see that there are some African economists who have written and studied quite seriously on this question to come up with that figure. It is just the amount of value stolen from free labor alone – our forced labor – but even that’s not enough because if you count the value in terms of the bodies killed – but you’ve got to remember that when we’re talking about the capitalist economy, it started through quantifying value in Black people, Black bodies. So it’s not unreasonable to even throw into the discussion the actual lives of Black people lost in the process of creating the value that now constitutes the world economy and certainly the United States economy.
blackmattersus.com
So who should get this money and what is it going to be used for?
Omali Yeshitela
Well, let me just say that the African People’s Socialist Party and the Uhuru Movement, we represent a revolutionary organization. We don’t think that there’s any way that this whole social system can be reformed and we think that the demand for reparation is a function of revolution, and we mean that the reparations are something that comes to the African people and will come to the African people through the organization that we create, and the process of creating and building every day to overturn this relationship and to take the resources. The only fundamental problem we’re going to have is that as this crisis of white power deepens and people can see it deepening every day, that the U.S government will certainly reach a point where it will decide to give some kind of payoff to somebody in the name of reparations in order to quiet the masses of people and say that we’ve now given reparations. So the revolutionary organization that we are creating are the organizations that will create the crisis, that will force white power to give up the resources back to the community, and will also have the ability to determine where that money is going to go to. It’s not going to be a decision that’s going to be made unilaterally by the United States government but the organized power of Black people will make that determination. And we the African People’s Socialist Party, the Uhuru Movement are deeply involved in the process of making that happen. The other thing I would say is that the Uhuru Movement, even as we’re having this discussion, is involved in acquiring reparations and we have organized a group of white people under our leadership who work in the white communities and who create institutionalized processes through which they go to white people and say, “You owe reparations to African people, give it up now.” And some of those resources are coming to us on a daily basis and then we’re feeding them into the struggle to win total liberation of African people. If you go to any place where we’re located, if you go to Oakland, Philadelphia, and I mention these 2 places in particular because we’ve created certain kinds of institutions for the purpose of telling white people you have an opportunity and a responsibility to pay reparations and you pay them to these institutions that are geared to creating an independent Black political economy for Black people. The same thing can be said of what it is that we do in St. Petersburg, Florida. So reparations is not just some idea, it’s actually something that we are in the process now of acquiring and you will see in the next several months a major drive coming from the Uhuru Movement demanding reparations from many of the corporations that are out there – reparations designed to go directly to Black Star Industries, which is an overall kind of economic development program that we have created for the purpose of developing our own independent Black political economy.
blackmattersus.com
I’ve read your inspirational speech which you gave on August 9, the one you talked about “We Africans must take our power back!” and there you linked the initial part of your speech with Malcolm X. Did you know him personally and did he inspire you to found the Uhuru Movement?
Omali Yeshitela
I did not know Malcolm personally but I will tell you this: that Malcolm X was the most influential leader of the African liberation movement in his era. Ideologically, he was the most influential force and he influenced the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee that I was a member of, and this was at the time where the Civil Rights Movement was at a high tide and Malcolm X was challenging the direction of a Black movement that was spending time, as he eloquently put it, trying to sit on the toilet next to white people. He challenged the whole notion of philosophical non-violence more than, and more eloquently and better than anybody did, he was a profound influence. And almost everything you see, that characterizes itself as militant or fighting for self-determination, not only in this country but in much of the world, has been influenced by Malcolm X, who himself was influenced by Marcus Garvey. But in his era, Malcolm X was the most influential force. And I didn’t know him personally, although I will say that it was my intention when first hearing of Malcolm X, to try and join him. And I did try and join him by the way, by trying as a young person, to join the Nation of Islam. But the Nation of Islam was not Malcolm X, and it didn’t take me long to discover that. Malcolm was the only person in the Nation of Islam that you ever heard up to even now, 2016, to call for revolution, to find revolution, to say that revolution was the way forward, to give formula for what the revolution means, what it takes to make a revolution. No other person who was associated with that organization has ever said that. In fact Malcolm X’s testimony, his statements, his struggles, his declaration of the need for revolution is one of the things that caused the split in the organization that resulted in him being kicked out and moving to build his own independent organization. So I never met him but yes, I’ve been very, very much influenced by him, and everybody else that talks about national remission for Black people, self-determination, has also been influenced by Malcolm X.
blackmattersus.com
The posts on the Uhuru site sound quite aggressive sometimes, well, I’d say most of the time. They call on people to act. You do different campaigns, fundraisings and annual forums. But do you support protests? How does Uhuru organize and participate in protests?
Omali Yeshitela
We don’t only support protests, we initiate a lot of protests, but again, from our perspective, the question has to always be asked, “Towards what end? Why, what is the objective of the protest?” We’ve seen in the recent period, people who have initiated protests under the slogan Black Lives Matter. We don’t think that informs us, it doesn’t say anything towards what end. It’s more like a whining complaint. We say that Black Power Matters and that the demand in the face of the police aggressions and murders in our communities is for Black community control of the police. We say Black community control of the police because that gives us a step up on the platform towards actually having power over every aspect of our lives. So Black community control of the police we think is a mastermind, a democratic demand that most African people can be able to unite with, and anybody who does not unite with it is in opposition to a basic democratic demand. Everybody ought to be able to control the folk who are running around with guns in their communities and African people are no different. So we see that as an anti-colonial demand, not just a whining demand that would ask the oppressors to treat us better. We say we should have control of any armed force in the African community and we think that’s the reasonable and responsible demand that needs to come from our community, and it would come from our community if we were actually concerned with assuming control of our own lives like any people with any sense of dignity and integrity.
blackmattersus.com
You’ve talked so much about the fact that to be free, we need to be able to stay economically independent. These things you’ve talked about remind us of the 10 point program of the Black Panthers, they wanted to create a Black nation, a Black state in America. What do you mean when you talk about revolution?
Omali Yeshitela
No, their 10-point program never called for the creation of a Black nation in the United States but they were anti-imperialist and they were for self-determination of African people as well. To your point, when I talk about revolution, I mean taking power. I mean overcoming the existing social system. I mean recognizing that no oppressed people has ever become free without having to dispossess the oppressor. I’m talking about the fact that if you acknowledge the existence of oppression, you are at the same time acknowledging the existence of the oppressed and oppressors. And it is the oppressor that’s responsible for the condition of the oppressed. The oppressed must, as a condition of winning freedom, overturn the relationship, dispossess the oppressors, the oppressors have to be dispossessed. We have to take power, have our own power, take our power away from America, white people, we have to have the power. UHURU!

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